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Little, Big This book astounded me Not in a good way I expected to like Little, Big quite a bit from what I d heard about it But, like the Drinkwater house, it looks smaller on the outside than it feels from inside Not in a good way I mean the book feels like it s a thousand pages.Some people like it, as you can tell by other reviews the language is often quite clever, it ends on a semi strong note, and it plays with myth in some interesting ways These are all good things Bad things Well, the cha This book astounded me Not in a good way I expected to like Little, Big quite a bit from what I d heard about it But, like the Drinkwater house, it looks smaller on the outside than it feels from inside Not in a good way I mean the book feels like it s a thousand pages.Some people like it, as you can tell by other reviews the language is often quite clever, it ends on a semi strong note, and it plays with myth in some interesting ways These are all good things Bad things Well, the characters aren t compelling, the clever language is often stilted and ponderously slow, and almost nothing happens On top of that, the fantastical aspects of this book were never surprising or especially interesting.When it comes to the characters, we run through four generations in about 600 pages This gives us slightlythan a hundred pages per generation to get to know the characters, and Crowley clearly needspages than that to make them interesting Only in the last of the four generations did I like any of them Auberon and Sylvie Before that, the motives of the characters were sketchy at best, and it didn t feel like any of the characters were DOING anything they were waiting for something to happen As a reader, I was doing the same thing Okay, here s the plot A man marries into a family that lives in a gigantic, mysterious house in Edgewood For generations, this family has been interacting in various strange ways with the Faerie folk that live in the forest around them The family is part of a great Story, and they don t know quite what this story is going to be Some members of the family come into direct contact with the fae, while others yearn to see them and are never able to A few live lives of tragedy as a result of this proximity with the mythic side of reality, while others live semi normal lives Being part of a grand Story Having a Destiny These are meaningless designations unless it ends up BEING a grand story Or unless it feels like a destiny is reached You can t entertain me by assuring me these people are Living Some Grand Story, when I can see clearly that Nothing is Happening They re all hanging out at a house in the woods, going through the process of forgetting about their connection to the faerie realm because they believe this is the only safe thing for the family Then, finally on page 450 or so, it looks like there s GONNA be a plot The kind of plot where stuff is going to happen But don t worry it s a false alarm Things DO happen, but they re safely off screen and vague Then the end pops up predictably and.well, bleck How else could it have ended I mean, did anyone NOT know it would end this way And is the ending crafted in a way that s especially insightful Let me be honest about something, though I don t like generation spanning fiction Pick the generation that is interesting and focus in, don t give me 400 pages of background about the people who won t be involved in whatever climax you ve cooked up If someone isn t even alive during your story s climax, then why do you think it s a good idea to tell me about them But if these characters had come to life for me, I would ve probably still enjoyed the book Unfortunately, at all of the most dramatic moments of the story, characters did things that seemed to come out of the blue Why did this married guy and this woman suddenly have an affair No idea Why did his wife react the way she did No idea I was supposed to be intrigued by all of this I suppose, but it felt flat to me because of my lack of interest in the characters Crowley reimagines myth in a way that is often vivid but never surprising, and that s unfortunately the strongest part of this book In sum, I don t recommend it This will be an easy review for a glorious book of Fae, story, and four generations of an interesting family.To say it s lyrical misses the point of the theme, that the deeper you look, the bigger it gets It s true for this novel as it is true for any one of us A surface glance might get you caught in a fae s trap, such as a kingfisher for a gas station, but when you get caught in the web of love, children, changelings, careers,love, story, story, andstory, whole vistas open up bef This will be an easy review for a glorious book of Fae, story, and four generations of an interesting family.To say it s lyrical misses the point of the theme, that the deeper you look, the bigger it gets It s true for this novel as it is true for any one of us A surface glance might get you caught in a fae s trap, such as a kingfisher for a gas station, but when you get caught in the web of love, children, changelings, careers,love, story, story, andstory, whole vistas open up before us.And then there are the doors to the fae We may be kings of a kingdom on the tips of our fingers or be lost in our imaginations larger than worlds and worlds, never to wake again Or we can forever hunt for the door to that imagination made real or we could be lost in fever dreams and lose the very idea of love and family Either way, we are all megalomaniacs and the meekest of the meek The magic is real and the most difficult doors can t be crossed and other doors are larger than whole forests and we ll never see them.And then, of course, there s the fun plot surrounding a deck of special Tarot cards, sleeping emperors, the takeover of America, and talking animals Honestly, it s hard not to see the deliberate passing of this particular torch to some of my favorite authors Susanna Clarke s Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell comes to mind Both are extremely rich and deep and expertly crafted tales of the fae And let s not forget Valente s Fairyland series which deliberately picks up the flavor and even some of the naming conventions and outright themes from this book None are lessened by this comparison Indeed, they all compliment each other I m in love.I admit to avoiding this book It was on my radar for 30 years, and yet I just thought it wasn t for me.How wrong I was It was absolutely gorgeous sometimes, when dreaming, i am aware of a complex and mysterious history to the at times strange but often mundane narrative of the dream itsef i ll be running away from something, against some dark background, a house or castle or a school, who knows although the drama of running is clear, there s often a feeling that so many things have already happened before i started running, things of which i m only dimly aware, a whole story has happened or is happening in which i m only getting bits sometimes, when dreaming, i am aware of a complex and mysterious history to the at times strange but often mundane narrative of the dream itsef i ll be running away from something, against some dark background, a house or castle or a school, who knows although the drama of running is clear, there s often a feeling that so many things have already happened before i started running, things of which i m only dimly aware, a whole story has happened or is happening in which i m only getting bits pieces or what feels like the end i guess it s what makes some dreams so hard to explain simple or inexplicable events occurring that have an emotional depth and meaning that is near impossible to describe in passionless terms other times, passing by my work s drop in center, i ll exchange words with a visitor, a person usually dealing with life changes or the possibility of life ending that s the nature of my workplace they ll say some simple pleasantry or even give a brief phrase to show how they re doing and there s a whole world in what they say, an entire journey expressed, nearly intangible emotions conveyed but of the details of that history, the why and how of it, and the place they seek or the place they fear to go inexpressible.that s what reading Little, Big was like for me so many little moments in a family s life, in the lives of people connected to that family, in the city in where the family lives and all these moments live in a world with a background and a future that is vast, mystical, dreamlike, one that cannot be expressed with any kind of logical or linear description sometimes the moments are so personal and delicate other times they are whimsical and brimming with magic, or strange and full of some kind of barely understandable threat sad moments, and tragic ones, and moments filled with delight and in the end, they become grand and they sweep the characters and the reader towards what almost feels like an understanding of the purpose and destination of it all almost the novel is about an enchanted family, their loves lives history it is also about the end of an age, the beginning of another, witches changelings fairies enchantments, loneliness forgetfulness sorrow, love, the past and the future, and new york city there are no real villains, there are no traditional heroes the writing has a dense but fragile beauty there are layers upon layers there are mythical beings that come alive and realistic characters that become as myths i sighed in amazement, many times, at the wonder of it all it is like a dream made half real it is a unique book The story of a house all lit, the house of four floors, seven chimneys, three hundred and sixty five stairs, fifty two doors, traveled far they were all travelers then It met another story, a story about a world elsewhere, and a family whose names many knew, whose house had been large and populous with griefs and happinesses that had once seemed endless, but had ended, or had stopped and to those many who still dreamed of that family as often as of their own, the two stories seemed one The The story of a house all lit, the house of four floors, seven chimneys, three hundred and sixty five stairs, fifty two doors, traveled far they were all travelers then It met another story, a story about a world elsewhere, and a family whose names many knew, whose house had been large and populous with griefs and happinesses that had once seemed endless, but had ended, or had stopped and to those many who still dreamed of that family as often as of their own, the two stories seemed one The house could be found Within the pages of this little book lies a whole universe It is big in concept and masterful in execution, although the journey tends to be meandering and confusing at times, given the Moebius strip timeline and the allegorical nature of the characters I haven t read all of John Crowley s novels, but this one feels like his magnum opus, his most ambitious project where he tries to encompass all of human nature within the mythical power of storytellingDaily Alice couldn t tell if she felt huge or small She wondered whether her head were so big as to be able to contain all this starry universe, or whether the universe were so little that it would fit within the compass of her human head In order to encompass both the big picture of a world where technology drives mythical creature into oblivion and the inner life of sensitive souls looking for a purpose in life, Crowley builds a house that exists in multiple realities at once and brings into it a weird family that seems attuned to the lost music of Faerieland Think Lord Dunsany meets Neil Gaiman by way of Shakespeare s Midsummer Night s Dream , but this is an oversimplification of this unique, disturbing yet beautiful journey Houses made of houses within houses made of time The cast of characters in the novel is huge, and the story follows them over several generations, jumping backward and forward in time to catch them at the crossroads of their spiritual journey For me, though, who enjoyed greatly the sprawling Lyonesse Saga by Jack Vance, the broken storytelling and the richness of the personal details were a bonus and not a distractionYou see, it is a Tale Only it s longer and stranger than we can imagine Longer and stranger than we can imagine Crowley shares with Vance also an interest in a lyrical, often melancholic prose The Edgewood house and its inhabitants I m being deliberately vague about actual names and plot developments give me same end of the world as we know it sense of loss that I got from Tales from a Dying Earth Of course, it is not all gloomy and despondent there is humour, and beauty, and most of all the pursuit of love and happiness, often achieved by retreating from the outside world within the multidimensional halls of the Edgewood mansion, where you never know for sure where you will get once you open a doorIt is another world entirely, and it is enclosed within this one it is in a sense a universal retreating mirror image of this one, with a peculiar geography I can only describe as infundibular I mean by this that the other world is composed of a series of concentric rings, which as one penetrates deeper into the other world, grow larger The further in you go, the bigger it gets Each perimeter of this series of concentricities encloses a larger world within, until, at the center point, it is infinite Or at least very large In order to cross the border between reality and the land of the faeries, one needs to follow his or her dreams, dreams thatoften than not turn into nightmares For every touch of romance and passion there is an echo of suffering or at least of malevolent pranks played by alien creatures from a different dimension But there is also a hint of predestination, of an overarching plan that uses the family as pawns in a bigger game of dominance between our world and Faerieland A game that can turn deadly and even lead to all out war against the encroaching technological advances that has driven the magical creatures farther and farther away from the gardens of our real world She had always lived her best life in dreams She knew no greater pleasure than the moment of passage into the other place, when her limbs grew warm and heavy and the sparkling darkness behind her lids became ordered and doors opened when conscious thought grew owl s wings and talons and became other than conscious The novel starts with a portrait of youth and passionate love, of a wild wedding party and new beginnings for Smoky Barnable and Daily Alice Drinkwater, but very soon a darker note is introduced when they first meet the faeries To understand this crossroad in their path together, Crowley takes us back into the past of the house of the Drinkwater family, and forward in time to follow their offspring as they struggle to make sense of the game these alien creatures are playing A pack of cards that can apparently predict the future play a major role in foreshadowing coming eventsFar down the hall, Sophie dreamed that there was a tiny door in her elbow, open a crack, through which the wind blew, blowing on her heart TheI delved into the family history, the less clear things become, until I actually stopped trying to analyze the plot rationally and left it to unfold in its allegorical form The theme is not really the conflict between Earth and Faerieland although such a war come to pass , but birth, and family, love and growing old, reality and dream, the universe and the way we can project it on the canvas of our imaginationI wish you shelter from the stormA fireplace, to keep you warmBut most of all, when snowflakes fallI wish you love No matter what kind of adversity the characters go through, the thread that guides them through the labyrinth, especially when they are away from Edgewood, is family and the shelter they provide Some questions may be too painful to be answered, some loss unavoidable, but as long as the house stands, the gate to a bigger universe can still be found Like Peter Pan, all you are required to do is to believe in its existence In winter, summer is a myth A report, a rumor Not to be believed in Get it Love is a myth So is summer Because eventually summer will be here and once again Oberon and Titania, Puck and Hermia, and all their retinue will meet again and dance the night away in a hidden glade.I probably missed a lot of references to classical and modern myths from the text, since many side characters seem allegorical, but that only makes meinterested in re reading this gem of a story sometime in the future It may not be the easiest of journeys, but for me it is one of the best fantasy books I have ever read And I did read a lot of them The Things that Make us HappyMake us Wise as a side note, every chapter has a poem as an introduction, reinforcing my impression that there is little accidental or gratuitous in the plot, that there are numerous hidden Easter Eggs for those better read than me My favorite is from the Persian poet, Attar of Nishapur, a fragment from his own allegorical journey called The Parliament of the BirdsBut how could you have expectedto travel that path in thought alone how expect to measure the moon bythe fish No, my neighbors, never thinkthat path is a short one you musthave lion s hearts to go by that way,it is not short and its seas are deep you will walk it long in wonder,sometimes smiling, sometimes weeping I m someone who always finishes a book, but this one was impossible Could the author have made the female charactersapathetic,passive,dull,flat and stereotypical One is completely fine that her husband cheats on her with her own sister The sister sleeps through her almost rape by a cousin They never leave the house, never do anything And the men are no better you ve got the brother who has sex with a 14 year old and anyone else who ll have him until he kills himse I m someone who always finishes a book, but this one was impossible Could the author have made the female charactersapathetic,passive,dull,flat and stereotypical One is completely fine that her husband cheats on her with her own sister The sister sleeps through her almost rape by a cousin They never leave the house, never do anything And the men are no better you ve got the brother who has sex with a 14 year old and anyone else who ll have him until he kills himself , the adulterer husband, the cousin who likes to have sex with sleeping women, and the other brother who likes to take pictures of his naked little sisters when they re children Really And to top it off, there s no plot to speak of I ll give Crowley credit for his beautiful writing style, setting details, and ability to create the vivid and fully realized world these characters inhabit But character building doesn t seem to be his strong suit Or plot building either because by the time I read to page 260 something, there was still nothing to pull the reader along except for the style of writing For me, that s not enough.Normally, I wouldn t even bother writing a review because I hate to potentially influence people s opinion of a book as if I have that kind of ability , but man, I couldn t not say something about how unreadable I thought this book was What a terrible shame I was so set to love this book The blurb was good, magical realism is one of my favourite things, the book cover is so pretty, I was so sure I was in for a five star read And for about 100 pages everything went well Then I realised that despite the beautiful writing style there was nothing for me to like The story was thin, the characters barely existed , much of the writing became incomprehensible I didn t give up and trudged on to the bitter end And I still do not What a terrible shame I was so set to love this book The blurb was good, magical realism is one of my favourite things, the book cover is so pretty, I was so sure I was in for a five star read And for about 100 pages everything went well Then I realised that despite the beautiful writing style there was nothing for me to like The story was thin, the characters barely existed , much of the writing became incomprehensible I didn t give up and trudged on to the bitter end And I still do not understand any of it This is definitely a book you either love or hate I did not love it Little, Big is the greatest book I have ever read It is living magic in text form, and it has a truly transformative effect on the reader I understand that it meanders a bit in the middle section and goes off on a strange ish quasi political tangent toward the end, but everything is purposeful and comes together to achieve a singular effect literally every single sentence is essential and purposeful to the grand narrative When I finished it, I immediately felt like re reading it to catch ev Little, Big is the greatest book I have ever read It is living magic in text form, and it has a truly transformative effect on the reader I understand that it meanders a bit in the middle section and goes off on a strange ish quasi political tangent toward the end, but everything is purposeful and comes together to achieve a singular effect literally every single sentence is essential and purposeful to the grand narrative When I finished it, I immediately felt like re reading it to catch everything that I might have missed It s one of the saddest books I ve ever read and is simultaneously one of the most uplifting Reading this book feels like falling in love John Crowley s masterful Little, Big is the epic story of Smoky Barnable, an anonymous young man who travels by foot from the City to a place called Edgewood not found on any map to marry Daily Alice Drinkwater, as was prophesied It is the story of four generations of a singular family, living in a house that is many houses on the magical border of an otherworld It is a story of fantastic love and heartrending loss of impossible things and unshakable destinies and of the great Tale that envelops us all It is a wonder I tried to read this but just couldn t slog my way through it The jacket copy sounded really intriguing, but I didn t get halfway through it The biggest problem I had with this book was that I felt tried far too hard to be Airy and Phantasmagorical and Mystically Vague and forgot that a plot was actually necessary It wanders and doesn t actually get anywhere, the prose was overstuffed, and not a single character actually caught my attention I was disappointed, beause it was a very interestin I tried to read this but just couldn t slog my way through it The jacket copy sounded really intriguing, but I didn t get halfway through it The biggest problem I had with this book was that I felt tried far too hard to be Airy and Phantasmagorical and Mystically Vague and forgot that a plot was actually necessary It wanders and doesn t actually get anywhere, the prose was overstuffed, and not a single character actually caught my attention I was disappointed, beause it was a very interesting premise, but the author just didn t pull it off, IMO ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature Don t be sad It s all so much larger than you think Smoky Barnable lives in the City and thinks of himself as anonymous His father is dead and his step siblings have forgotten him He has no friends at all until he meets George Mouse who introduces him to his strange family Smoky falls in love with one of George s cousins, Daily Alice Drinkwater, and he moves upcountry to the Drinkwater estate called Edgewood At his wedding he meets the Drinkwater fa ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature Don t be sad It s all so much larger than you think Smoky Barnable lives in the City and thinks of himself as anonymous His father is dead and his step siblings have forgotten him He has no friends at all until he meets George Mouse who introduces him to his strange family Smoky falls in love with one of George s cousins, Daily Alice Drinkwater, and he moves upcountry to the Drinkwater estate called Edgewood At his wedding he meets the Drinkwater family a clan of eccentric characters who live in or near a huge pentagram shaped house that Smoky is still getting lost in decades after he moves in it s bigger inside than outside More strangely, the Drinkwaters also have some sort of religion that Smoky never quite understands until the end of the story when he realizes that maybe he was not as anonymous as he thought he was Or maybe he was And perhaps it s not really the end of the story, but the beginning instead Or maybe it really is the endDuring the course of the story, we jump backward and forward in time and meet past and future Drinkwaters, such as John Drinkwater who built the house as a model of five different architectural styles his wife Violet Bramble who could see fairies her illegitimate son Auberon who took up photography so he could capture the beings he thought he saw in his peripheral vision Daily Alice s sister Sophie, who spends much of her life asleep Sophie s illegitimate daughter Lilac who is stolen by the fairies and replaced with a changeling George Mouse who uses hallucinogenic drugs and doesn t really care if his bed partners happen to be relatives.Most of the family s stories are told in the past tense, after they ve happened Thus, there s not much action or excitement in Little, Big there s little exploration of the house or woods or any interaction with the fairies It s a slowly meandering family history, somewhat like a soap opera It s full of little intimate details and doesn t open up so that we can see the big picture until the very end.Most of the characters are passive some mainly the women believe they are in a fairy tale and are waiting to see how it ends Those who don t believe spend their time wondering what they re not being told, or thinking that the rest of the family is crazy Nobody talks much about the family s relationship with faerie because nobody really knows Is the family being protected Are the fairies benevolent or malevolent This aspect of an elusive, plotting, behind the scenes race of magical beings reminded me of Susanna Clarke s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.Little, Big has a dreamy, often bleak, fatalistic feel When bad things happen, such as disappearances, adultery, incest, teenage pregnancy and illegitimate birth, the family says oh, dear, forgives each other, and considers it all part of the Story, as if nobody is in control of their own actions Many readers are sure to be enchanted with the wistfulness, but I did not feel as forgiving toward some of the characters as their family members did, and at one point I got so angry and disillusioned with Smoky that I wanted to give up on him Not only was I mad at the characters who behaved badly, but I was mad at the rest of them for being so passively philosophical about it all.What kept me reading this long meandering often depressing story was the magnificence of John Crowley s prose, which was beautifully read by the author himself in Blackstone Audio s recent production Truly, I know few authors who compare and I often found myself sighing with delight at a metaphor or turn of phrase While the moon smoothly shifted the shadows from one side of Edgewood to the other, Daily Alice dreamed that she stood in a flower starred field where on a hill there grew an oak tree and a thorn in deep embrace, their branches intertwined like fingers Far down the hall, Sophie dreamed that there was a tiny door in her elbow, open a crack, through which the wind blew, blowing on her heart Dr Drinkwater dreamed he sat before his typewriter and wrote this There is an aged, aged insect who lives in a hole in the ground One June he puts on his summer straw, and takes his pipe and his staff and his lamp in half his hands, and follows the worm and the root to the stair that leads up to the door into blue summer This seemed immensely significant to him, but when he awoke he wouldn t be able to remember a word of it, try as he might Mother beside him dreamed her husband wasn t in his study at all, but with her in the kitchen, where she drew tin cookie sheets endlessly out of the oven the baked things on them were brown and round, and when he asked her what they were, she said Years The audio production of Little, Big was superb and my only complaint is that there is no accompanying family tree like there is in the print version of the book Fortunately, I was able to find this with the Look Inside feature at.Little, Big or, The Fairies Parliament was nominated for all the major awards in 1982 and won the World Fantasy Award Indeed, it s a remarkable achievement and is one of the most beautifully written books I ve ever read Little, Big will not appeal to all readers, and I m not sure I ll read Little, Big again, but I will always remember it with awe Fans of Catherynne M Valente, Neil Gaiman, and Patricia McKillip will be totally charmed by John Crowley s writing style and should put Little, Big on the top of their TBR stacks right now

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