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Comment: As pictured, published by Portobello, 2012. Uncreased spine; cover has minor creases and scuffs; pages are clean and unmarked. No inscriptions, nice reading copy.
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The Misfortunates Paperback – 5 Jan 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (5 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846271584
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846271588
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 1.6 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 853,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Verhulst's prose is always a delight ... This is a subtle and wonderfully told story' --Financial Times

`Verhulst's gift for imagery is impressive ... the humour is pitch-black and very funny'

`Ceaselessly entertaining ... it bursts with humour and energy that never lets up'

'Outrageousness yields to eloquent recognition in this darkly intelligent novel' --Irish Times

'This is a welcome addition to the ranks of literary fiction that find humour, and sometimes poetry, in urban deprivation.' --Independent

About the Author

Born in Belgium in 1972, DIMITRI VERHULST is the author of a collection of short stories, a volume of poetry and several novels, including Problemski Hotel and Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill (Portobello, 2009), which have both been translated into English. His books have been widely translated and praised throughout Europe.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By William Jordan on 18 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel is told from the standpoint of the grown-up Dimitri, and is a recreation of scenes from his childhood in a close by chaotic Belgium family with a grandmother, sons of many ages given to drinking and Dimitry, her grandson, also learning the ways of life in such a family.

There are memorable episodes - the family watching Roy Orbison's Black and White Night in the house of unsuspecting immigrants to Belgium who have invited them round to integrate better (Roy Orbison being a big hero of the misfortunate family), and Dimitry's farewell to his now demented grandmother, initially touching and then comic as his uncles insist on his joining them and her to try to recollect and re-enact drinking songs for a folklorist. Both the sadness at leaving behind such roots and the clear benefits of living a more 'normal' life as a writer come through.

Not a great work, I felt as I reached the end of this short novel, but certainly something very different.

Two footnotes about Verhulst's life, drawn from an interview in The Big Issue: his father died at 37 from cancer and had made at that time 5 unsuccessful efforts to stop drinking; Verhulst finally lost all contact with his uncles after his book, published originally in 2006, was turned into a film which was very successful in Belgium and there was too much press interest in their lives...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Jan. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
In The Misfortunates, Dimitri Verhulst has given us an image of a working-class suburb (the fictional "Arsendegem") of an un-named town in Belgium where drunkenness and low-level violence predominate.

According to his Wikipedia entry, Dimitri Verhulst was came from a broken home "and spent his childhood in foster homes and institutes". The publicity for the book says that it is semi-autobiographical - a book where the author has taken his life as a starting point and then embellished the bare bones of his life to make it more entertaining and readable. The reader never knows where reality ends and fiction begins but as the boy in The Misfortunates is called "Dimmy" there is obviously enough reality in the book that the author can say, "This was my life".

The Misfortunates is a collection of vividly described episodes from the childhood and youth of a boy living in a family which is so dysfunctional that its difficult to see how a child could survive it. This is a world of drinking, violence and poverty so severe that it is not surprising that Dimmy ends up being taken into care. The book reminded me a little of Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha in that it doesn't try to tell the whole life story of the boy but describes various episodes in his life.

The family's life revolves around the pubs of the locality including The Liars' Haven, which hosts a drinking competition based on the Tour de France, in which each stage consisted of drinking monumental amounts of beer.

On one occasion a bailiff comes to the house to claim recompense for the family's debts only to find that the furniture is so broken and battered that its not worth taking.
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Format: Paperback
Dimitri Vehulst has written a compelling novel that would appear unfortunately autobiographical on the Vehulst family kept low through generations because of their enslavement to drink. His grandmother provides the barest maintenance and shelter for him and his father and uncles. Despite the depths that they sink to, the rotten clothes, stinking house and the disease there is a nobility of sorts: a frank no apologies and no sympathy creed. Dimitri scores hits on bourgeois attitudes and anxieties. He's scornful of their lack of steadfastness and facile hobbies and makes plenty of interesting commentaries. There is a brilliant skewering of collectors. Above all this is a hilarious book. Comic genius is reached when one uncle attempts a Tour de France style competition to find the best drinker and his grandmother misconstrues this as a genuine interest in the sport of cycling. From the blackest depths and most desperate wretches a divine comedy emerges.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Just William on 3 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
I discovered Verhulst by accident after taking a punt on his rather wonderful novella Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill. I knew back then when I read it that it was something of a departure from Verhulst's previous output and Portobello Books are now publishing the autobiographical novel that he published in the same year. The shorthand precis on the back of my proof: Think Shameless with mayo on the chips (this book was actually turned into a film with a quite brilliant title). This coming of age tale is narrated by Verhulst himself (yes, he uses his own name) beginning at the age of thirteen when he lived with his father, his uncles and his grandmother in the onomatopoeically named Aresendegem (presumably the arse-end of some small town) in Belgium, 'a town the great cartographers forgot, an ugly backwater, but a great place for drizzle and pigeon fancying.'

Now, I nearly gave up on this one, I'll be honest. After the first couple of chapters I got the sense that what I was going to read were a series of vignettes based on Verhulst's own chaotic upbringing. Colourful characters, entertaining set-pieces, all very good but not enough to maintain my interest throughout. What comes along to save it at first is the set-piece to end all set-pieces. We've all played some kind of drinking game in the past I'm sure but the Verhulst's have slightly larger ambitions.
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