Duchess of Nothing
A NovelBook - 2006
The author of the critically acclaimed Schooling returns with a darkly comic novel about a mentally unpredictable woman intent on giving a young boy a proper education.
After leaving her husband and their suffocating marriage for a new lover in Rome, the narrator of Heather McGowan's Duchess of Nothing has her freedom, but is still trapped by the routine of life and haunted by her past. Even worse, her lover, Edmund, is just as self-absorbed and remote as her former husband. Her one source of entertainment is Edmund's seven-year-old brother, a curious, precocious, and defiant child who becomes her responsibility during her lover's long absences. Spending their days together, they wander the city, simultaneously repelled by and drawn to each other as she teaches him important lessons he would otherwise never learn in school, such as "marriage is a tomb" and being an expert liar is key to getting ahead in the world. But when Edmund abandons them altogether, the amusing relationship between the narrator and her charge suddenly becomes a necessity, and she realizes how much she has come to depend on the boy.
Clever, wry, and acutely aware of her own precarious grasp on the world around her, the narrator of McGowan's pitch-perfect novel speaks with a cutting honesty and a hilarious, twisted logic that keeps us riveted to the page.