From a literary technician’s point of view, it could be said that there is an awful lot wrong with Verhulst’s The Misfortunates. Despite an incredible opening chapter, the story is slow to get going, with over half the novel having passed by the time we move out of the realm of anecdotes and into something that resembles a plot. Furthermore, the structure of the novel is strange to say the least. For 120 pages we are in the mind Dimmy, a boy on the brink of puberty, growing up in a family of alcoholics. Even this voice is unconventional, as many of the events the first-person narrator dramatises are events that he couldn’t possibly have witnessed. When, in the final quarter of the novel, we begin to jump back and forth indiscriminately between this young Dimmy and his older self, the structure becomes unidentifiable. These techniques would not get…

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