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Little, Big

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  8,056 Ratings  ·  1,147 Reviews
Little, Big tells the epic story of Smoky Barnable -- an anonymous young man who meets and falls in love with Daily Alice Drinkwater, and goes to live with her in Edgewood, a place not found on any map. In an impossible mansion full of her relatives, who all seem to have ties to another world not far away, Smoky fathers a family and tries to learn what tale he has found hi ...more
Paperback, 538 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by Harper Perennial (first published August 1981)
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Dan'l This is a family chronicle, like Joyce Carol Oates' _Bellefleur_. It is intentionally expansive, echoing the architecture of the house, Edgewood, in…moreThis is a family chronicle, like Joyce Carol Oates' _Bellefleur_. It is intentionally expansive, echoing the architecture of the house, Edgewood, in its intricately interwoven sprawl.

In fact, it is many stories, all tied up in the ongoing Tale. It's about people and relationships and the impossibility of sharing personal truths even - perhaps especially - with those one most loves.

The magic intrudes so oddly, and seamlessly, that the realism is able to persist undiminished. The joy of the book is in the familiar detail that allows these extraordinary characters to be instantly familiar, only growing moreso as the story unfolds.

This is not a book to read in a hurry to reach a resolution. The pleasure is in savoring each turn, each new scene unfolding as if turning an unexpected corner inside or outside Edgewood, and taking the time to let that sink in, to take one's bearings before moving on.(less)
Sheherazahde I believe the book explicitly says that he was amused at how apropo the name was. The bridge would be noisy if a gun club was meeting there.
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Community Reviews

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Jun 14, 2007 Oriana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: phenomenal, read-2008
I've given a lot of thought to this review: how to begin, how to describe this story, how to explain my utter adoration for it, and most importantly, what words I might use to successfully make everyone read this book right now.

As you can probably imagine, I've come up rather short on all counts.

How do you talk about a book which seems to either redefine or cause to shrivel all the normal descriptors one attaches to works of fiction?

I mean, strictly speaking, you'd have to call this an epic fa
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
mark monday
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 ...more
Camille Stein
Apr 19, 2014 Camille Stein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Illustration: Peter Milton |

En un momento de silencio se miraron simplemente el uno al otro y la verdad zumbó, tronó dentro de él cuando comprendió de pronto lo que había sucedido: no sólo él se había enamorado de ella, y a primera vista, sino que ella a primera vista se había enamorado de él, y las dos circunstancias producían ese efecto: el de empezar a curar su anonimato. No a disfrazarlo, que era lo que George Ratón había tratado de hacer, sino a curarlo, de dentro hacia
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 ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Phrynne rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Angie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unreadable
I'm someone who always finishes a book, but this one was impossible. Could the author have made the female characters more apathetic, more passive, more dull, more 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 ...more
Kat  Hooper
Dec 30, 2011 Kat Hooper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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
Aug 31, 2016 Pantelis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Trusting Ηarold Bloom's recommendation, I met this book last winter and it was love at first sight just like when Smoky Βarnable first set his eyes on Daily Alice Drinkwater. I was enchanted from the very first page (a psychogeographical delight) and on the second page I witnessed the most romantic of meetings and on the third page Ι discovered a marvel of compressed biography and right after that a passage of bureaucratic beauty leading to the beginning of a wonderful friendship and so on and s ...more
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
Aug 28, 2007 Bobby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of John Cheever who believe in fairies
Reading "Little, Big" you find every last detail infused with magic, wonder and mystery. When you encounter a talking stork, you think "Of course, why wouldn't the stork talk?".

A lot of the Gnostic and Hermetic concepts that Crowley explores in the Aegypt tetraology are also here in some form. They're given a less complete treatment, but nonetheless permeate the novel, including the "Art of Memory" as practiced by Giordano Bruno in Aegypt, and by Ariel Hawskquill and Auberon Drinkwater here. Al
Dan Schwent
Jul 20, 2008 Dan Schwent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Little, Big is the story fo a family that lives in a house called Edgewood, far to the north of The City. It follows the family from generation to generation. Let's just say fairies play a part in the lives of the Drinkwaters and their relatives.

The only book I can compare it to at the moment is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but that's more of a subject matter thing. The writing is very rich and detailed. While I was reading it, I thought it would be the best book I read that year. Whatever
Nov 14, 2013 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I said it best for NPR! You must read this book:
Aug 16, 2008 Sandi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, fantasy
There is no way one could ever adequately describe “Little, Big” by John Crowley. It is an epic of minute proportions. Its 500+ pages skip back and forth through several generations and between the “real” world and the fairy world. The reason I put the word “real” in quotes is because the real world of “Little, Big” bears no more resemblance to our world. While this novel has a lot of characters, they are more like sketches than sculptures. You never get a sense of any solidness to them. They fl ...more
Aug 17, 2009 tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A slow-burner, this one. Not in the traditional sense of a story with a gradual build-up and overflowing end. The events within what little plot there is are evenly spread out. Rather, as this tale languidly unfolds, its wonders seep deeper and deeper into the reader’s subconscious well.

The dreamlike and otherworldly logic that saturates nearly every passage in Little, Big often lulled me into a pleasant hypnagocic stupor. Normally when sleep creeps up on me while reading I end up later having t
Paul Bryant
Apr 10, 2009 Paul Bryant rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, novels
One thing is for sure, if Little,Big is ever filmed, Quentin Tarantino won’t be directing it. From what I could tell this book is the daytime TV version of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and that was itself the janeaustinized version of Dracula with a few knobs on. I did get through all 2,599 pages of that epic of narcolepsy, so when I figured how Little, Big was going to pan out, when I could keep my eyes open long enough, I said to myself hey, Mr Once Bitten, stop this nonsense now!

For a rha
Oct 13, 2009 M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really didn't think I was going to give this one five stars, not even 400 pages in. I respected its craft, definitely. I was calling Crowley "maniacally subtle" to try to explain the inching, sometimes painfully slow unfolding of dramatic motion--and the sense that this whole book was an elaborate blind for a very clear and simple storyline hidden underneath. Crowley as much as tells you so in one of his many little metafictional asides about the Tale. But even as I latched onto fascinating mo ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that is hard to talk about. Maybe best to describe by analogy.

So imagine a tangled ball of wool with which you are following a strand as it winds its way in around the other strands, in and out of the tangle until eventually you find the other end of the thread, somewhere not too far from where you started.

The narrative flows a bit like that. It nips back and forwards in time, hops from one character to another, spanning several generations of a sprawling family as we
Aug 24, 2016 Pavle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The further in you go, the bigger it gets."

Citat iz knjige: o knjizi, o porodici Drinkvoter, o vilama i raznim svetovima u svetovima, veći u manjem, o životu.

Nešto kao Markesovih Sto godina samoće, obrnuto u ogledalu. Ako je Markes pisao o porodici u običnom svetu sa notom magijskog, Krouli piše o porodici u magijskom svetu sa notom običnog. Ipak, nije ovo tradicionalna fantastika, nego nešto izmedju. Potpuno jedinstvena, zaslepljujuća knjiga, zahtevna, jedna koja uvlači u sebe (jer što dal
Branwen Sedai *of the White Ajah*
She had always lived her best life in dreams. She knew no greater pleasure than that 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."

In upstate New York, in the wild and unpredictable countryside, there lies a house known as Edgewood. Like it's name implies, it lies near a large and mysterious wood. In this hous
Aug 28, 2009 Mosca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: patient readers
The most readily evident characteristic of this book is the beautiful, almost musical prose that weaves throughout the telling of this “Tale”. The world created is seductive and at times dreamlike. The characters are so well introduced and sustained that you feel that they are good friends, even as you know their weaknesses.

For these reasons only, this book is worth the effort. But other reasons also abound.

Please, read this bo
Aug 17, 2009 Alex rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the third time I've read this book. Why keep reading a book that I've only (begrudgingly) given two stars too? Because every time I've finished it I did so loathing it, but as time passed I always forgot why I loathed it and became slightly convinced that it was me, and not the book, that I hadn't read it carefully enough, or thought about it properly, that there was some thing that could easily be removed that once I figured it out would leave me honestly loving a book I'd only felt lik ...more
Eddie Watkins
This book is like life to me. A dangerous statement, but true! It has the feel of all the moments of my life as it unfolds. It has all the wisdom and subtle instruction by example that is necessary for a rich and various life. It limns many of the other layers of life that are left out of "realist" fiction, and so it's been called fantasy, and until recently that is the section where you would always find this book. But this is reality fiction, and it's hard for me to imagine a person whose actu ...more
Aug 15, 2007 Brooke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, fantasy
Whenever critics describe a book as "ambitious," I'm always wary. Ambitious is sometimes just another word for "really, really long," and a good portion of the really, really long books I've read could have done the job better in fewer pages. John Crowley's Little, Big is called "the best fantasy written by an American" by one critic, but the A-word by another. Is it too long? Maybe just a bit, but the places where it dragged suffered from an unsympathetic character more than an unnecessary prol ...more
Το Άσχημο
Η βαθμολογία δεν είναι ενδεικτική, αλλά κατά παραχώρηση.

Στην αρχή υπήρχε ένα πράγμα που με ενοχλούσε (μετά έγιναν περισσότερα). Ήταν αυτός ο μαγικός ντετερμινισμός που κρύβεται πίσω από μια φράση, του μότο όλων όσων ζουν μέσα στον καταπιεστικό κύκλο της «Ίστορίας» (Tale, την ονομάζει ο συγγραφέας, κάτι ανάμεσα στην Διήγηση και Παραμύθι), μια ρήση όπου όλοι φαίνεται πως ασπάζονται με την μέγιστη παραίτηση, με ένα μοιρολατρικό ανασήκωμα των ώμων, χωρίς ποτέ να επαναστατούν (ή όταν το κάνουν, το
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
I had pretty decent hopes for this book, and maybe that's lent itself, a bit, to the air of disappointment I was left with... but let's start at the beginning.

The prose style is lyrical and others have described it as 'dream-like' - something with which I can agree. At first I had a hard time getting into it, but once I sort of settled into the style I rather enjoyed it as it set up the story of the Bramble-Drinkwaters ('cause, really, even though the cover say it's Smoky's tale it's not, really
It seems to me that John Crowley had both older fairy stories and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in mind while he was writing Little, Big. There is a parallel world beside (or maybe simultaneously inhabiting) Edgewood, and, like older versions of fairy stories, its inhabitants seem to be maybe indifferent or maybe hostile to humanity. Smoky spends his life like many of the men who marry into the Drinkwater/Bramble family, wondering what exactly is going on and not really getting a strai ...more
Apr 02, 2007 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the last 20 or so pages of this late at night, half-asleep which puts your mind in the same state as the characters (characters getting lost in the woods, forgetting who they are, talking to animals - more in line with the fuzzy dreaming brain). Everything in the book was leading up to those last few pages. The Tale! When will it end!? What will happen to justify all these whispered anticipations for it?

After seeing reviews of the book on here, I picked it up with great anticipation. Mag
Sep 11, 2007 Julian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Smart folk who like fantasy and a bit of prose
I appreciate the entertainment merits of fantasy/science fiction, but after years of Dungeons and Dragons and reading the literature spawned from that (which seemed to always borrow from Lord of the Rings), I grew tired of the genre and more or less walked away from it (and Dungeons & Dragons - but that's another story). As a wedding gift a friend passed on a copy of Little Big. And I fell in love. Mr. Crowley's prose is beautiful, original and haunting. It captures the "magic" of the world ...more
Jun 25, 2008 Jude rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: whoever finds there way in
Recommended to Jude by: the cover. by Yvonne Gilbert
This is the cover - with the redhaired girl and the bubbles and the boy and the trout - of the book i picked up and put back and got to the door of the store with friends waiting and turned back and went back and bought.
And from then on the world was as it would not otherwise have been.

This is a tender and endless world of a story, a comfort and a wonder.
And i don't feel gooey about this, or wistful about everybody reading it.
It is not so much perfect as simply perfect for you or not at all.

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

John Crowley was born in Presque Isle, Maine, in 1942; his father was then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after colle
More about John Crowley...

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“The things that make us happy make us wise. ” 59 likes
“Love is a myth.'
'Love is a myth,' Grandfather Trout said. 'Like summer.'
'In winter,'Grandfather Trout said, 'summer is a myth. A report, a rumor. Not to be believed in. Get it? Love is a myth. So is summer.”
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