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on 8 August 2001
This sinister novel is as compulsive as it is disturbing. Throughout McGrath's prose is spine-tinglingly evocative and yet his narrator is less than honest with the reader. Even after finishing the novel I am still not sure what is real and what is a figment of the narrator's imagination. Is Sir Hugo deliberately lying to the reader to hide his guilt or does he honestly believe that the servile new butler, Fledge, is capable of such wickedness? Surprisingly this chilling novel is filled with humour which lies in the brilliant characterisation within the novel and in the discrepancy between what Sir Hugo is telling us and what we can imagine is actually happening. Sir Hugo's rendering of the relationship between himself and Sidney Giblet's mother, who is determined to find out the truth about what happened to her son, is superb. A must read!
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on 19 January 2004
After reading the excellent Asylum in about 4 days for an Essex book talk group I was so impressed with McGrath's style of writing that I thought I'd try another McGrath book I tried Grotesque , I got through this in just a couple of days being so compulsive . For Grotesque McGrath shows us a very humorous side to his writing , a side I never encountered in any of his other novels I read. This is a darkly disturbing gothic story ,laced with horror, murder mystery black humour and mind games. In this story Things at the Gothic Crook Hall household take an unexpected slide due to the arrival of deviously seductive butler Fledge.Sir Hugo gives the reader his viewpoint as he lays in a wheelchair parlysed with a stroke from his view he tells the story of the fall of Crook Hall which involves a savage murder ,and how the devious Fledge destroys his life as he takes over Crook Hall. As usual McGrath has created sharp characters from the cocky Fledge who distastefully commands the story Sir Hugo the palaeonologist, whose abandoned his wife and family for his affair with dinosaur bones. Fledges lifeless wife Doris the drinker, Harriet Sir Hugo's wife, Cleo his daughter , Sidney Cleo's fiance and Sidney's mother who Sir Hugo describes as being a battle axe.Grotesque's one hell of a read .Only problem I found was it's a very short book more of a novella at less than 200 pages . I'm just suprised that McGraths books are not as critically acclaimed as they deserve to be,and Grotesque is at McGraths highest standard of strong prose tough plot perfect!
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Wow! Utterly marvellous from the beginning, deeply objectionable in terms of some of the events, touches of playful pathos, wickedly ironic, dark as a witches eye. I loved it and would urge anyone to give it a try. It is mesmerising once you get trapped in it’s sticky web. For much of this novel I was gripped, enchanted, alternating between shuddering with distaste and laughing with glee, often at the same passages. It is a deeply immoral book, no one should doubt it, but at the same time it is tremendously inviting and naughty.

We are in Crook, a house in the countryside, inhabited by Sir Hugo and his wife Harriet, his daughter Cleo, and her fiancé Sidney Giblet. They have a new butler, who along with his wife Doris the cook, are the only servants. The narrator is Sir Hugo and we necessarily see everything from his point of view, but we quickly begin to wonder how accurate his deep suspicion about their integrity will prove. His reports on what is going on in the house are never substantiated. How reliable a narrator he is comes into doubt. When the fiancé disappears one day, the plot thickens very nicely.

There is horror, when after an incident in the barn Sir Hugo is trapped inside his body, unable to communicate, forever condemned to a rictus grin and at the mercy of his staff and wife. Only Cleo believes that there is a sentient person behind this horrifying grotesque. But is it Sir Hugo who is the grotesque? What of his suspicions about the butler Fledge. Should we believe that Fledge has stolen Harriet’s affections and they nightly lie in an adulterous embrace?

Where is Sidney Giblet (I loved the names), was he being blackmailed by Fledge? How much do any of them know about what is going on? What will happen to the faithful gardener George when he is accused of murder?

You may not find the answer to all of these questions, but you will laugh your socks off. This gloriously dark and blackly comic book is one of the best tonics you could possibly take.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 27 November 2011
Patrick McGrath's glorious Gothic novel: `The Grotesque' is set in a decaying English manor owned by the wonderfully eccentric paleontologist Sir Hugo Coal, who is the grotesque of the title, after becoming paralysed and losing the power of speech. The novel moves backwards and forwards in time, from before Sir Hugo's `accident' to afterwards, and the story is narrated by Sir Hugo throughout.

Living with Sir Hugo at Crook Manor is his wife, Harriet, his daughter, Cleo, his sinister butler, Fledge, and Fledge's wife, the inebriate, Doris. When Cleo's fiancé, Sidney Giblet, disappears after a clandestine meeting with the creepy Fledge, Sir Hugo, who secretly witnessed the strange meeting, is convinced that Fledge is behind Sidney's disappearance. Not only does Sir Hugo think that his butler is guilty of some misdemeanor with his daughter's fiancé, but he starts to believe that Fledge is trying to usurp his position as the master of Crook Manor. As Sir Hugo works away at his paleontology in his barn, he believes Fledge to be working away at the seduction of Harriet, resulting in some rather dubious erotic and deliciously funny imaginings.

When a recently deceased body turns up in a shallow grave in a nearby marsh, Sir Hugo becomes convinced that Fledge's crimes are more serious than blackmail and seduction, and then, something rather unpleasant happens to Sir Hugo in his barn - rather like Stella Gibbons' `Cold Comfort Farm' where something nasty happens in the woodshed. And this is where you start to ask yourself (if you haven't before) just how reliable a narrator is Sir Hugo - is Fledge really the perpetrator of these dastardly deeds, or is Sir Hugo trying to pull the wool over the eyes of his readers?

This book, which I have had on one of my shelves for some time, is an absolute little gem of modern Gothic; it is sinister and macabre, yet brilliantly and blackly comic. I read it in one greedy gulp, wondering why it has taken me so long to get around to reading it. Now I have read it, I am keen to discover Patrick McGrath's other novels and think I might start with Asylum which I note has received some very good reviews.

4 Stars.

Note: This title may be unavailable new from Amazon, but if you look under Amazon Marketplace you should be able to obtain an 'As New' copy from either 'Wordery' or 'Langton Info' (their books are usually new copies of American editions).
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on 12 October 2014
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