A review of

Misfortune

by Wesley Stace

Central question: Remember what novels used to be like?
Format: 544 pp., hardcover; Size: 6” x 9”; Price: $23.95; Publisher: Little, Brown; Editor: Judy Clain; Illustrator: Abbey Tyson; First stanza of “The Ballad of Miss Fortune,” Stace’s first version of the Misfortune story: “I was born with a coat hanger in my mouth, / and I was dumped down south. / I was found by the richest man in the world, / who brought me up as a girl”; Representative sentence: “My anatomy called constant attention to itself beneath my clothes, but now that I understood what it was, what I was, I realized that it had always been an impediment even under the free flowing folds of my skirts, through no fault of my own.”

David Foster Wallace’s 1993 essay “E Unibus Pluram” concludes by suggesting that the next wave of literary rebels in the U.S. “might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels… Backward, quaint, naïve, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point.” After all, in our fearful, insincere age, what could be more radical and risky than spinning a good old-fashioned yarn?

While Wesley Stace is not quite American—he’s British, but he’s lived here for fifteen years—his amazingly accomplished debut novel is precisely the kind of rebellious anachronism that Wallace augured. In its premise, plot, pacing, style, and enormous cast of characters, Misfortune operates deliberately like a Dickens novel. The book begins with a foundling in a rubbish heap (a foundling!), taken home to opulent Love Hall by the bachelor Lord Geoffroy Loveall, who, because of the traumatic early death of his sister Dolores, is determined to raise the child as a girl (Rose Old), even though the child is a boy.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Chris Bachelder

Chris Bachelder’s novel, U.S.!, will be published in February. He lives in Colorado.

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