The Murder of My Aunt might make a very good movie. It is in many ways a battle of wits and wills between Edward and his Aunt Mildred. It all begins when the mailman could not bring up his package of books he had ordered because the label was damaged. The aunt, feeling bad for the frequent heavy bundles the mailman is forced to lug up, insists that Edward must walk down to the village to get them. Edward resolves to drive, but she forbids it. She goes to the ridiculous effort of emptying her own car’s gas tank onto the ground to ensure he walks. Edward equally absurdly captures just enough of the leaking petrol to get his car down part of the way to the village when he can buy some petrol and pick up the packages. All in all, it was far more work than if he had just walked down, but he insisted on at least appearing to drive. Aunt Mildred made the point of revealing she and the villages were not fooled and laughed while watching him struggle.
Now on the surface, this is a sensible older woman getting her own back on a ridiculous, bad-tempered, nephew who is living off her generosity. Well, not so much. It turns out long ago she inherited the obligation to provide for him along with all the family money, cutting him out even though he was only a child. We also learn that she spent her lifetime trying to break him of what she called willfulness and his effeminate manner that so offended her. She never let him win and wonders why he does not try? It seems in many ways, his entire life was a failed gay conversion program.
I can see how The Murder of My Aunt appeals to some people. There’s something fun at seeing someone who is a snob and think themselves so superior acting a fool. Edward is an unlikable jerk who thinks he is smarter than anyone else. However, I think his Aunt Mildred created him. She raised him since the death of his parents. In all that time, did she hug him or comfort him? I don’t know but I don’t think so. She was determined that never once in his life would he succeed in asserting his own agency. That he still had any will of his own, however twisted is a testament to a strength and sense of self that could have made a marvelous person if he had been raised by an aunt who wanted to love him, not break him.
This is a reprint of an old British crime classic from 1934. Sometimes the mores of old classics are difficult. People were openly homophobic and mocking and condemning a man for being effeminate was perfectly acceptable. To modern eyes, it reads poorly. Much is made of his French books that his aunt calls pornography and so on. Those values are stale and unwelcome.
I received an e-galley of The Murder of My Aunt from the publisher through NetGalley.