232. Montmorency by Eleanor Updale
Publication: Orchard (April 1, 2004), Hardback, 240pp / ISBN 0439580358
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s/MG
Challenges: Countdown 2010 (2004 #1)
Read: November 18, 2009
I was caught without a book one afternoon this week and so I quickly grabbed this book off the library shelf to read on the way home. It’s not what I was expecting, and it’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s not horrible, at least.
Summary from Amazon:
When a petty thief falls through a glass roof trying to escape from the police, what should have been the death of him marks the beginning of a whole new life. He soon becomes the most elusive burglar in Victorian London, adopting a dual existence as both a respectable, wealthy gentleman named Montmorency, and his degenerate servant Scarper.
From the first page Montmorency seemed spooky and interesting and slightly gross. I have a hard time with descriptions of Victorian (or before) doctoring, because most of it’s disgusting and highly unsanitary. (I’m a bit of a germaphobe.) So when it started off with a dude who’s being experimented on by a “doctor,” that really freaked me out. However, the book quickly moved on from that and gets into the crime stuff. I like crime stuff, you know, like Arsene Lupin kind of things, but this crime stuff was boring.
Much of the book is boring. The dialogue-to-exposition ratio is way too high, and while that may work in, like, a fairy tale– it doesn’t really work in a crime novel. There was no excitement. There was no tension, no thrills. There was a bit of humor but overall the whole thing was a bland cake frosted with lumpy gray frosting.
Also, the whole scheme Montmorency sets up (hitting places near sewer holes, doubling as two people) reeks of implausibility, and I couldn’t help but think that he’d get caught sooner or later. The fact that he doesn’t just makes me think it’s sloppy writing.
I didn’t particularly like Montmorency, but I find the idea of a criminal forcing his way into the aristocracy amusing, and I liked reading about him discovering opera and…Plato. I know it’s a trope but I like it anyway! And it worked really well, here; Montmorency, while not a super hardcore criminal, does evolve into a better person by the end of the book, though I’m not entirely sure it’s because of the influence of good clothes and fancy food.
Unless that is the whole point of the book, in which case. Woah. Okay, that’s a whole can of worms I don’t even want to open.
Anyway, basically: Montmorency is an okay book, but its main virtue is that it’s short. It’s not electric, it’s not entirely fun, and I’m not sure I would have read it all if I wasn’t desperate.
Other reviews: By Singing Light
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