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Rustication: A Novel Paperback – November 8, 2013

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Paperback, November 8, 2013
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton & Co (November 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393348237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393348231
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,526,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2013: "Rusticated" was the polite 1800s term used when young men were suspended from school, and that's what’s happened to 17-year-old, opium-addicted Richard Shenstone at the start of Charles Pallister's creepy and addictive fourth novel. Shenstone is "sent down" from Cambridge and forced to return to his rural, rainy home, where he finds his family on the verge of losing their run-down mansion. His father has recently died, and his mother and sister are acting jumpy, sneaky, and strange. Told in the form of Richard's journal--"discovered" by the author 150 years later, in a county records office--we view the story, of desperate families acting desperately, through Richard's opium-fogged eyes. Pallister is an evocative writer, moody and lovely and atmospheric. At times, reading about life on the moors, I felt I should’ve been wrapped in an afghan blanket in front of a fire. As Richard once puts it, being stuck inside during the rain "felt frowsy, cabined, cribbed, and confined." Though the characters aren’t very likable, many of them self-absorbed and deceitful, the story is very catchy, a smart and spooky page turner. It's like reading a BBC Masterpiece Theater mystery, with a heavy dose of Downton (more like downtrodden) Abbey, with saucy maids and prude dowagers, earls and lords and priests. The dark, terrible truths slither out slowly, at times too slowly. “None of us can face the truth,” Richard says. Still, I’m always impressed by a writer who can keep me guessing for 300 pages and pull off one more twist on the last page. --Neal Thompson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Something wicked this way comes, and this time it is in the heart of a small town in mid-Victorian England. Sent down from Cambridge in disgrace, 17-year-old Richard Shenstone retreats to an ancient, crumbling house on the edge of a marshy bay occupied by his recently widowed mother and his enigmatically secretive sister. As he records, a series of confusing and increasingly terrifying happenings in his journal, the reader is initially left to wonder how much of the story is real and how much of it is fueled by Richard’s opium-impaired imagination. Beginning with vicious rumors and lurid poison-pen letters and culminating in mayhem, mutilation, and murder, the escalating crimes ripple out, infecting an entire community of grotesques. Paranoia reigns supreme as the twists and turns keep multiplying in this gothic horror show adeptly spun by the author of The Quincunx. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

The story was difficult to follow and a bit silly.
joanna attwood
A number of satisfying mysteries and enough pace to keep me engrossed, so all in all a very satisfying read.
Although the book got off to a slow start, I still found it compelling enough to continue to the end.
M. Blake

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Ray Garraty on October 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Rustication is written in the form of a diary that a seventeen year old protagonist of the novel Richard Shenstone had written for a several weeks. He was expelled from the university and forced to return home to his mother and sister. However, not much left of home: in the four months that Richard was studying, his father died of a heart attack, and Richard had not even been invited to the funeral, his mother and sister Effie had lost their means of livelihood and moved to a dilapidated house in the south of England.

Richard arrives before Christmas of 1863, alone, without a cart that will come later, but his mother and sister do not welcome the return of the young man. In the novel, with each diary entry the amount of mysteries and oddities is growing exponentially and they are all important elements of the puzzle, and it is not possible to mention them all.

Richard hides the events that occurred to him at the university, and his mother and sister hide the events that took place during his absence. Richard notes that Effie, a little older than him, goes somewhere by nights, and his mother turns a blind eye to it. The mother is holding a secret of her husband's death: why now is the family forced to live in poverty, without any support? Richard gradually reveals secrets about himself to his family and learns the secrets of his relatives.

What a puzzling story this Rustication - and a first-class mystery, and a disturbing neo-Victorian novel. From the first chapter and almost to the very end Palliser throws and throws the puzzles to the reader. Avalanche of oddities rushes at you without stopping. Everyone has something to hide, and the farther the worse. Small sins overshadow the big sins, and that’s what almost all the characters are trying to hide.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on November 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So many good novelists have tried their hands at ersatz Victorian sensation novels that it now practically forms its own subgenre. Sarah Waters, Michael Cox, D.J. Taylor, Louis Bayard, Michael Faber and many others have all tried their hand to reproduce the magic of nineteenth-century practitioners of sensation fiction such as Charles Dickens, Ellen Wood, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, J. Meade Falkner and (preeminently) Wilkie Collins. But the popularity for the revival of the form really got going in the late 1980s with Charles Palliser's impossibly long and involving attempt to revivify the form with THE QUINCUNX, which was an international best seller. A decade later, Palliser proved again he could write the most exciting and atmospheric instances of the form with THE UNBURIED, which was even better for being the more tightly contained. After another wait of more than ten years, Palliser again shows his mastery of the form with yet another engaging novel about a mystery surrounding a fascinatingly repulsive community of Victorians.

Almost no one in this novel is made to be likeable even from the start, and none is more contemptible than its protagonist and primary narrator, Richard Shenstone. Richard has been sent down, or rusticated, from Cambridge as the novel starts for unspecified reasons, and has come to stay with his recently bereaved mother and sister in a dirty and decrepit large house they have come to inhabit after the initially unexplained death of Richard's father. Knowing he is expected to comfort them both, Richard instead finds himself engaging in opium smoking, chasing after the housemaid, and making himself obnoxious to the neighbors.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Rustication" follows the struggles of the thoroughly unlikable Richard. At seventeen, he has been sent down from university over a murky scandal. He finds his mother and sister, Effie, living in unexpected poverty after the sudden death of his father. No one in the village seems to act the same way twice. A series of filthy letters and animal mutilations focus his attention on the mysteries around him that seem to lap against his very door.

Richard is an opium addict, incredibly selfish, and lecherous. He is broke and in debt with no relief in sight, although he clearly expects that the world in general will take care of him. I kept deciding that I hate the book, but not being able to put it down. Then I decided that the rural scenes from a vanished past England were outstanding in their detail. The book is broody, and then has a flash of sullen humor. The skulking Richard judges everyone on appearance, but seems to view people differently as he gets to know them. He spends a great deal of the novel sure he has found the solution to the mysteries, and waking up finding it is all false.

Finally I have to report that this book kept me thinking and kept tickling my curiosity. I almost made my peace with young Richard, but this tells me that he buzzed into my mind far enough to provoke a judgment. Rustication has always been a punishment. Living in the distant country life has been brought forward to inform the reason it is dreaded. It is in the end a fascinating trip.
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