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The Chymical Wedding

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  342 ratings  ·  39 reviews
In a dazzling weave of story and character, The Chymical Wedding tells two parallel and interconnected tales--one set in the late 1840's, one in the 1980's, both played out in the same English village.
Paperback, 548 pages
Published October 4th 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published 1989)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 725)
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read it twice - second time even better - Jungian psychology, fucked up victorian priests, ghosts, psychic american potters, a dodgy old poet, a medieval sculpture of a gaping vagina above a church doorway, alchemy, swans called Janet and Henry - what else do you need. A really marvelous piece of writing.
Iain Coggins
May 31, 2011 Iain Coggins rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mythographers, alchemy enthusiasts, mystics, people who appreciated twisted love stories
Recommended to Iain by: Cott Hobart
Shelves: general-fiction
I read this last December and enjoyed it immensely. It had been recommended to me twenty years ago, and finally I have been able to get to it. I could easily give it five stars, but then I would be only thinking of myself. Truth is, Clarke is a bit verbose for some tastes. And though I prefer more minimalist, direct prose, and was not bothered by his syntactic style, I can see how others might be. There are also some sections, especially toward the denouement of the story where the characters wa ...more
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
Hard not to give this five stars, even if it had its challenges. The Hermetic allusions and Jungian references are a bit arcane at times, and Edward is downright annoying. But the writing is gorgeously involved and sensuous. And the characters (Edward aside) are very engaging in their determination to uncover and share the secret to the world's salvation by knowing themselves better. If you have ever felt even remotely mystical then you'll appreciate this.
Sep 18, 2007 Nathan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: psychologists, alchemists, 18th century English parishioners
I'm not sure why I am choosing this book to review, but it is an excellent Jungian novel that actually understands the nature of his pyschology and doesn't simply act glib and vaguely profound. There is a lot of emphasis on alchemy (a major preoccupation of Jung's) as well as pagan/pre-Christian imagery, a la John Fowles' "The Magus," which I'd also recommend. There are two parallel stories, one from the 20th century and one from the 18th, which fits well into the divided pysche typed themed tha ...more
David Grieve
I read this several years ago and remembered enjoying it so i thought I'd give it another go. It did not have the same impact and although it is a good and imaginative story, most of the characters were too odious or irritating to aid enjoyment. Two of the main characters being poets also means that it borders on the pretentious in parts. The sub plot of nuclear tensions is very much of its time although the reactions to the situation seem a little over dramatized. Having said all that, the Vict ...more
I ran across this book while browsing a list of the Whitbread winners (now the Costa Prize). The writeup was tantalizing and I was chagrinned to realize that to read it I would have to buy it! But, it was a worthwhile investment.

It's a lesson in Jungian psychology as well as an immersion in those things which touch all souls. Only a very unfeeling pragmatist could fail to relate both to the romantic side of the story as well as the introspective aspects. In short, it left me thinking and even mo
Philip Kazan
Alchemy, layers of past and present, an English village full of off-kilter inhabitants - a seminal book of its kind.
I loved it. As someone who is interested in Jungian psychology, I particularly appreciated the blending together of opposites - yin and yang, masculine and feminine - in the search for wholeness. Lindsay Clarke has produced an amazing novel. Disturbing in parts, definitely, and perhaps too wordy. But a brilliant piece of writing.

What I take away from this story (and it's a parallel story set in different centuries) is an appreciation of what it means to be truly whole. And the personal quest tha
Jonathan Ratty
Like The Magus, but a lot better somehow.
Jeremy James
This is a wholly captivating piece of work. Whether you are in the slightest knowledgable about alchemy or the Hermetic tradition, you'll soon pick plenty up on your journey through this work, and journey it is. It is a work of erudition. It is by no means simple and I would advise anyone to keep a dictionary handy since the vocabulary is glorious, rich and to the point. The whole structure of the book is superbly composed, some of it sits on the very edge of understanding - you don't get to coa ...more
Phillip Ramm
I had just read a small academic book on the Alchemists ( and found it fascinating. At the same time, I have been reading this novel - and am glad I had done the appropriate research serendipitously. Not that you really need to know that much. It reminds me a bit of Possession, in that there are parallel stories, one in the past and one in the present (1980ish). The prose is quite Gothic and rich, which may not to everyone's liking but the protagonist in ...more
Edwin Lang
I thought this was an excellent book.

An aspect of Clarke’s writing that I enjoyed is his characterizations of the individuals peopling this story and to his credit as a writer, I liked them all. Lindsay Clarke was able to introduce characters and in spite of what they may have done and said (like the harpies in Pastor Edwin Frere’s world), they were important to the story and we liked them to the end.

It occurred to me that this is one thing I find most fun in reading, that so often we meet ind
I first read this about twelve years ago and was quite impressed. Fortunately it did not disappoint me upon rereading. An atmospheric, mysterious, subtle tale that alternates between a 19th-century narrative and a late-20th-century one. Toward the very end I did feel a little impatient with the modern characters's psychological problems, somewhat in the same way as I get bored with car chases in films, and wanted more about alchemy, but in part that's probably due to my working on a novel with i ...more
The story shuttles back in time between the present day (not quite now but maybe twenty years ago) and the mid-nineteenth century, and two groups of people whose experiences echo each other, and also hark back to another group of people a hundred and fifty years earlier. It uses themes and plot elements drawn from alchemy. No further details in order to avoid spoilers, but I will say that I thought the characters were very well drawn and the writing was excellent and the plot gripping.
The classical references were too much for me, although I appreciated the search for balance and wholeness in all things.
May 01, 2009 Murray rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of meaningful stories and exceptional women
This book takes its title from an aspect of Rosicrucianism and a book that emerged in unusual circumstances in the 15th Century. However, this story is based on a real person who lived in America in the 19th Century and whose father was a scholar in the Hermetic Tradition.

Clarke's tale has the qualities of a mystery and a drama and I will not spoil how the events unfold. It is a very good read indeed both for its content and its delivery.
Dave Holcomb
A few good moments, some very nice writing throughout, but the whole thing felt like a less-adventurous version of John Fowles' "The Magus". By the time I reached the end, I was pretty much ready to move on. I think Clarke has a way with words, but his storytelling falters. All that said, I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys a long, engaging novel with some interesting ideas and a fair amount of romance.
Susan Howson
Have you ever read a book that was so gripping that you found yourself reading it in the car, at work, everywhere you could? Then go back in time and recommend that book to me instead of The Chymical Wedding. I avoided reading this every chance I got. It was so boring as to be ridiculous. Or maybe I just hate philosophy. Or maybe I just hate the characters. Or maybe I zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Even reviewing this bores me.
This was beautifully written but rather difficult to follow since I've studied or read about very little of the Hermetic mysteries. Parts of it were so flowery written that the actions were unclear. At times it frustrated me, and I never felt that it fulfilled itself, the story that is, or had a point.
My husband loved it and recommended it to me so I gave it my best shot!
Jenny Macdonald
A strange book and nothing like I thought it was going to be but enjoyed it. The search for the hermetical solution by people a century apart, the merging of male and female, light and dark, good and evil to reveal the philosopher's stone, not real gold but metaphysical.The Chymical Wedding in fact. Really impossible to describe this book it's so elusive but found it compulsive reading.
David McMahon
Excellently told with a dreamlike quality throughout. An excellent approach to magic. I'm now, officially a Clarke fan.
Samuel Helms
The symbolism of this book is fantastic. I plowed through my Alchemy readings and researched a great deal of the book. However, although I have tried to read it about four or five times, I have never been able to finish it. The plot just doesn't hold me after about half way through. It is a good book, I just can't ever finish it.
Christina Croft
An absolutely brilliant book combining alchemy, mysticism, reincarnation and two separate stories taking place a century apart. There is one particular scene which is so gripping and the outcone of it is so unexpected and startling that it literally makes the reader cry out, "Oh no!!" One of the best books I have ever read.
Holding the conflict within until you are changed, and so is the situation, although whether enough cannot be known. I love books that show through story how to "hold the tension" between good and evil, violence and love, known and unknown, until whatever creativity is born can be seen and acknowledged. This is such a book.
Angela Mcpherson
Beautifully written and engrossing. Characters compelling and consistent. Alchemy was all about creating gold. To me this story deals with the gold standard of relationships and in that sense created gold for me in a book I found engrossing and could not put down.
So many words I did not know. I should have read it on an iPad so I did not have to go to the dictionary to find the words I did not know.

"it was built of Wattle and daub, .... that cocked a snook at the sky" I cannot remember the dashed parts
Claudia Paraschiv
A perfect book for the place and time at which I read it - while on a three month project in a foreign country. The book is mystical, obsessive and lovely in its exploration of how to transition between discrete parts of one's life.
I didn't like how the book jumped around, I much prefered the story of Louisa. I found myself constantly putting off reading this book; but finally forced myself to finish it for better reading.
I give it half a star
Very good read. Well researched. Extraordinary wealth of background references and vocabulary. Had me looking up the dictionary and it;s a long time since I had to do that. Loved the 'Hermetic' context
Not what I was expecting. I found it abit boring, but maybe I was just in the wrong frame of mind. Not enough alchemy for my liking, and I couldn't get into the head of the lead character.
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Lindsay Clarke. More Novels? 5 13 Apr 04, 2012 07:49PM  
  • Theory of War
  • The Comforts Of Madness
  • Picture Palace
  • The Children of Dynmouth
  • Ulverton
  • Love & Sleep (The Aegypt Cycle, #2)
  • Docherty
  • The Bird of Night
  • Alchemical Studies (Collected Works 13)
  • Hawksmoor (Penguin Street Art)
  • The Old Jest (filmed as The Dawning)
  • The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England
  • How Far Can You Go?
  • Injury Time
  • Seeking Eden (No Shame, No Fear, #3)
  • Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses: Maud Gonne, Moina Bergson Mathers, Annie Horniman, Florence Farr
  • Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition
  • Flying to Nowhere
Lindsay Clarke is a British novelist. He was educated at Heath Grammar School in Halifax and at King's College Cambridge. He worked in education for many years, in Africa, America and the UK, before becoming a full-time writer. He currently lives in Somerset with his wife, Phoebe Clare, who is a ceramic artist. Clarke lectures in creative writing at Cardiff University, and teaches writing workshop ...more
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