The Murder of My Aunt: Richard Hull (1934)

Highly-rated in some quarters, this book consists largely of a first-person
narrative by Edward Powell detailing his various attempts to murder his Aunt Mildred. Edward is an utterly charmless and repellent individual; bone-idle and contemptuous of virtually everyone with whom he comes in contact, he is completely financially dependent on Mildred. They live together, endlessly irritating each other and engaging in acts of petty warfare, at Brynmawr near the (fictitious) village of Llwll.

As this book totally failed to charm me in any way whatever, I can only
presume that its high-rating is due to its’ being a first of its kind. There
is of course no question as to whodunit as it is not a whodunit; the only
suspense, such as it is, is as to the eventual outcome but this seemed
staggeringly obvious to me (not the sharpest tool in the box when it comes
to ‘guessing’ what will happen!). So given this lack of narrative or plot
interest the book’s appeal depends on the humour or charm of the narration.
Obviously it has no charm as Edward is loathsome. So the book’s trick, such
as it is, is to laugh at Edward through his own diary. Unfortunately he is
such a powerless and ineffectual individual that the humour of this attempt
escaped me. It should be stressed that there is no attempt whatever at any
kind of psychological depth here (this is not a ‘portrait of a murderer’);
Edward’s various ‘sins’ are wildly inconsistent – one minute he is being
accused of being gay (the book is rabidly homo-phobic) at the next of
attempting to seduce a maid; one minute he is deploring Fascists, the next
proclaiming himself a Mosleyite. The only decent joke in the book comes
right at the beginning with Edward’s musings on the pronunciation of Llwll –
but that shouldn’t deceive one. The detailed retailing of his various failed
attempts are simply tedious.

In the end not only was I signally unentertained by this book but I found it
left rather a nasty taste in my mouth.

(March 2009)

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