Rustication is Charles Palliser's latest novel (published November, 2013). His first novel, The Quincunx, was published in 1989 and it was written in the style of Charles Dickens as a literary exercise, Palliser being at the time a lecturer in literature and creative writing. Quincunx is a masterpiece.
His latest novel, while not the masterpiece that Quincunx was, is still an interesting book and an enjoyable read. Its format is that of a journal written by a seventeen year old boy, Richard Shenstone, who has been rusticated by Cambridge University, i.e. "sent down", or more literally, "sent to the country", or in more modern terms, suspended from college as a punishment. The Journal spans the days from his arrival in his mother's house on 12th December 1863 to the culmination of events in the story on the 13th January 1864.
This story is a mystery and I will go into no more detail about the plot but I will comment on Palliser's skill at misdirection and obfuscation. Even in the final pages of the novel I was not sure how it was going to end.
Throughout the book the reader is fed the views and thoughts of the author of the journal and his journal entries purportedly record his interactions and conversations with other people in the district and within his family. As a reader I was constantly asking myself if I was dealing with an unreliable narrator, was the reportage accurate, was the journal an elaborate red herring, etc...
The book holds the attention but the pace is a little slow for the first one hundred pages but it picks up speed for the final chapters. This is the second Palliser novel I have read but I will certainly be reading his others.
This is a book I would love to discuss with someone who has read it but I do not want to give away too many details in this review as that would spoil the experience.