Book Dragon is Reading - Aunt Dimity and the Duke by Nancy Atherton


Had a lunch break and then three hours on a train earlier in the week so I managed to read the remaining half of Aunt Dimity and the Duke. Meanwhile I’ve been a lot tired and of correspondingly low mood, and persistently failed to find the time to write anything about it. Trying to fix that now before it fades any further into the past and becomes any more overwritten by the stories I have read since then.

It ended up being a pleasant enough read, which is about what I expected. Precocious, strange children from a tragic background grow on our heroine, who is forced by conversation with others to realise she has been in love with that guy since the moment she saw him. Which surprised me because I was hoping for some sort of relationship to develop.

There’s a lot for me to be dissatisfied with in this book, like the way suspicion of the Duke is built and built but ultimately our protagonists do not actually solve anything. Rather, they get caught in the act of investigating and our supposed villain says some deliberately menacing, misleading things before dragging out the exculpatory revelation scene for a whole chapter. That is, pretending to admit to villainy, then making everyone sit in a drawing room for an entire chapter before commencing to explain non-villainy. Plus a household of independently wealthy servants who are all singular geniuses in their various fields, who continue to servant for the love of it, and a whole village of folk firmly committed to being rustic English country-folk.

Characters who are bloody-mindedly committed to acting out their idiom. I think particularly of Nanny Cole, who manages to be a beloved figure in the household despite speaking only to insult or threaten others, and in one crowd scene was responding so to virtually every utterance. That part was quite a chore to read.

The whole thing was such a comedy, I want to say. Both couples get married. Prophecies of love are fulfilled. Children save the day (by the by, I got the impression early that Peter was meant to be the main child, but suspect the author had so much fun with Nell’s peculiarities that she ended up taking centre stage). Everyone is innocent, or contrite unto death, and the wronged party not only forgives her assailant, not only claims to have borne fault in the matter of being assaulted, but even offers to apprentice her assailant. So much so does everything end happily.

It was as a GoodReads review indicated a prequel to the rest of the Aunt Dimity series so I was disappointed to have my suspicions confirmed and the shadow of her living self appear at the end. Bit amusing though that the only direct Dimity appearance comes in the form of prequel to prequel, in the prologue many years prior to the body of this novel.

I’m assuming the protagonists become recurring characters in the Aunt Dimity series - but not themselves leads - because they celebrate by purchasing a house in the village where the series actually takes place. Which is not where this novel happened. It feels a bit weird reading a novel in a series that has a different setting and cast to the rest of the series, and where the character around whose death the series is constructed is not in fact dead.

I suppose I might wonder whether I have really read an Aunt Dimity book after all. Presumably the tonal essence is there. I said above there is a lot for me to be dissatisfied with in this book, and there is, but at least it was drawn so sweetly I don’t feel any personal venom for it. The ride was fun enough, but I doubt I will another of them when there are so many more interesting alternatives in the world.