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The Limits of Enchantment: A Novel

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  698 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
Everything Fern Cullen knows she's learned from her Mammy -- and none of it's conventional. Taught midwifery at an early age, Fern grows up as Mammy's trusted assistant in a small English village and learns through experience that secrets are precious, men can't be trusted, hippies are filthy and people should generally mind their own business. But when one of Mammy's pati ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published February 22nd 2005 by Atria Books (first published January 1st 2005)
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Do you have an author that you see has written a book and you simply pick the book up having no idea what it may be about? Well Mr. Joyce is the one for me. After reading a few of his books, well I simply went on a book buying spree and purchased all that I could easily get my hands on. This being one. Seriously I had know idea what I was getting myself into.

Once again I was taken away by the book fairies and sucked into another world. I love his sentences. All of them. "I think to love someone
Dec 19, 2009 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me this is an outstanding book. By that I mean, one of the best that I have read.


Firstly, I am not conscious of Graham Joyce's voice. It would be interesting to know how many women would agree ... perhaps I just do not notice.

Secondly, a major part of the story refers to deep intuition, and the lore that gets people burnt at the stake. (Is it true that 900 000 women were executed in Europe for being witches? Supposedly this was really a struggle for power between the Church/ government/
May 01, 2013 Stacy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am continuing my Graham Joyce-a-thon. This did not disappoint. I was drawn in a little slower than previous books, but he got me again, yes he did.

The story of old wise woman, Mammy, and her adopted daughter, Fern. It's the mid-1960's and they live by the "old" ways, and practice the old arts. Fern not only has to learn what Mammy is teaching, she has to deal with new technologies, and new world laws, while she comes into womanhood, and has to fight off the men who would like to have her.

Alexandra Lucas
Aug 16, 2014 Alexandra Lucas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very well titled, for that is exactly what it is about and how it is delivered. Joyce did not disappoint. There are many kinds of enchantment and the limits are our own.

His main character is 'coming of age', along with the society in which she lives, and the pace matches the subject matter in every way. If you can straddle the world of possibilities with the one that requires attending to everyday life, this book will be among your favourites. It is elegant, simple, and immensely c
Jun 13, 2008 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is SO not a genre's slow, subtle, elliptical, and although it's about witches there's no Harry Potter type magic.

But I found it stunning, quite enchanting in all senses of the world, and superbly well written. How come this didn't win the Booker Prize? It's that good in my view. Graham Joyce is a frequent winner of fantasy awards, a good egg, and a writer of poetry in prose form of rare distinction. Compelling.
Apr 11, 2014 Christine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book I have read by Graham Joyce and I intend to read many more! I love the weird and wonderful worlds he creates -- worlds that straddle the ordinary and mundane, but then pop off into the surreal in a subtle, captivatiing way.

I loved the characters -- Mammy, the folk medicine herbalist, is a crusty funny old lady who upon further inspection is really much softer and loving than one would suspect. William is the village beekeeper, another crusty mysterious old man who knows m
Althea Ann
Jan 17, 2012 Althea Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently read Joyce's 'The Silent Land' and said, "Why haven't I read any of this author's work before?" I still don't know! I picked this up next - and it's even better than 'The Silent Land.'

Set in the 1960's, in rural England, it deftly draws the strange line of culture clash between old-fashioned ways of life and the incursion of the modern world.
The protagonist is a young woman, apprentice to a traditional midwife. Her learning has been herb-lore and beliefs called superstition, and altho
Mar 02, 2016 Ma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sfff
C'est un livre très "sage". Un intriguant mélange entre chronique d'une société rurale et fantasy. Je n'ai pas été envoutée, peut-être que ne pas l'avoir lu en anglais m'a empêché de rentrer parfois dans cette histoire, mais il traine quelques belles émotions après l'avoir terminé.
Wayne Barrett
"It was then that I thought: Judith I could slap your face for a whole day and not stop even for lunch."
I absolutely loved this book.
A story that takes place in the 60's but has an old-world feel. After reading this story I have to say that Fern ranks right up there with Scout Finch as one of my favorite female characters. Her life will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you want to look out at the stars...even if it is only to wonder about the satellites orbiting the planet
May 09, 2016 Janice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I've quite liked everything I've read by Graham Joyce so far. This book is no exception.

This is the story of Mammy and Fern, midwives in England in the 1960's. There may be magic, but it's not obvious, and it may not exist at all. There IS tradition, even though the modern era is pressing sorely against the old ways. Fern ends up on her own fairly early in the book, and has some rough waters to navigate. What happens and how she navigates the rapids is the story of the book.

I was reminded a lo
Sep 02, 2012 Jaye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2012
from page 234:
" "How they hate you if you're a little bit different," she would say. "They hate you so."
To which she would add, "And it ain't necessary." "
Jun 25, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's nothing quite like a Graham Joyce novel. Is it a modern fairy tale? Is it fantasy? Magical realism? Or is it just the right words put down in just the right way to tell the most amazing story, and to hell with classifying it?

Let's go with that last one.

In this 1960's set tale, young Fern is at loose ends when her adopted mother, Mammy, ends up in hospital. The year's rent on their crumbling cottage is due, and Mammy's midwifery practice is under fire since she doesn't have a license and
Feb 13, 2010 Catherine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This struck me as a book that makes a lot of promises it can't deliver on. I was very drawn into the beginning of the book and found the characters engaging, but it fell more and more flat as it went along. The treatment of rape in the novel was frankly offensive to survivors and not handled with any degree of emotional believability. This, coupled with the romantic ending that isn't and the resolution that isn't made for an ultimately unsatisfying read. Unfortunate, because you can see the bone ...more
Jan 27, 2015 Rj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished reading Graham Joyce's The Limits of Enchantment. Joyce's book is like the first Joyce book I read, The Tooth Fairy a magical tale set in the countryside of 1960s England. The story follows the growth of a young woman Fern, who is raised by a local "wise-woman," Mammy. She passes on her knowledge of the countryside around them to Fern and teaches about the reality of the world. Joyce's books capture a sense of the magic that exists between the worlds of the seen and the worlds of t ...more
Jan 12, 2016 Séverine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fern est une jeune femme qui vit dans une chaumière, loin du village, avec Maman Cullen. Maman n'est pas vraiment sa mère, mais tout le monde l'appelle ainsi. Capable de déclencher des accouchements, des avortements ou encore de découvrir le sexe d'un bébé avant sa naissance rien qu'en l'écoutant, elle vit au milieu des plantes qui guérissent et tuent, et enseigne petit à petit son savoir à sa jeune protégée. Guérisseuse un peu sorcière, Maman se retrouve hospitalisée - elle n'est plus toute jeu ...more
Aug 23, 2013 Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Original in topic and voice, this story about a young woman raised by a lay midwife in rural England in the 1960's paints village life in changing times as seen through the eyes of its protagonist. She is suspended in a world in which the first unmanned satellites are orbiting the earth and the ancient practice of midwifery, and finds that she must thread a path between these different kinds of magic.
Oct 13, 2008 Trunatrschild rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hedgewitch
Fern, adopted by a Hedgewitch learns how to straddle two worlds in the cultural upheaval of the 60's in England. Actually, she straddles 3 worlds, the Craft, the 60's and adulthood.
Feb 22, 2016 Studio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I remember it seemed a shock to me at the time, to see Mammy mothering this grown woman. Now that I know a lot more, not at all."

The kind of story told in layers, it lingers and meanders in your thoughts, and while reading you are thoroughly transported into the heart of England. Mammy is omnipresent and in my reading I imagined her rather a little bit like Mrs. Patmore, the cook of the series Downton Abbey. While aspects of Womanhood has been delivered many blows in the course of history, some
Nov 18, 2014 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really, truly loved this book. It was beautifully written and captivating - I seriously couldn't put it down. Even though it was a bit on the shorter side, it didn't lack in completeness or character development. I definitely want to check out Graham Joyce's other books, as I've found that he's won a few awards for British fantasy. The content of this one was rather heavy, but so well written that it didn't feel like it weighed me down. Definitely a fantastic read, and I completely recommend i ...more
Sep 23, 2014 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another stunning read from the incomparable Graham Joyce, The Limits of Enchantment is a coming of age story about Fern, a young untrained "midwife"/witch (I hesitate to use the latter term, but it feels appropriate enough, as there are mystical elements in abundance present here) who is forced to grow up quickly when her adoptive mother and teacher, "Mammy," passes away slowly and horribly after being led to believe that she was involved in the death of a girl she assisted with an abortion. ...more
May 04, 2014 Glenda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fern Cullen was raised in a small English village in the 1960's. She is taught midwifery at an early age and is Mammy's trusted assistant, learning the skills that will enable her to carry on the traditional medicine that Mammy practices. She learns through experience that secrets are precious, men can't be trusted, hippies are filthy and people should generally mind their own business.
When one of Mammy's patients allegedly dies from a potion prescribed to induce abortion, the town's people rall
Jun 06, 2011 Traci rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Normally I just rave about Joyce's books, but this time, not so much. Don't get me wrong; the book is well-written and I did enjoy it. Just not nearly as much as I've enjoyed some of his other, more "magical" works.

Fern is likable enough and the story is written in first-person voice from her perspective. Maybe that's part of the problem - I don't recall Joyce using that sort of narrative before. I could appreciate her plight, too; it's very frightening to have your only parental figure fall ill
Ron Charles
Dec 18, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Books that successfully straddle two genres are a cause for celebration, but they risk falling through the cracks between niche markets. You can feel the resistance from either side: Romance readers might enjoy "The Time Traveler's Wife," but would they accept a lover who pops in and out of time? (They did - in droves - even before it was picked by the Today Show Book Club.) It seemed impossible to recommend Margaret Atwood's weird and wonderful "Blind Assassin" without apologizing nervously for ...more
Jul 29, 2012 Carmen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006
Aqui está um livro fantástico, na verdadeira acepção da palavra. O autor é conhecido pela sua obra no género fantástico e ganhou mesmo o World Fantasy Award com o seu livro anterior.

Este é um livro sobre a difícil convivência, nos anos 60, da medicina tradicional com a medicina “científica”. Fern é uma jovem que vivem com a Mammy, sua mãe adoptiva e curandeira e parteira da vila. Com ela aprende de tudo um pouco sobre ervas e curas e a exercer a actividade de parteira.

Com a doença e o descrédito
Kevan Manwaring
Feb 23, 2013 Kevan Manwaring rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bellarmine jar of witchery-pokery, this was a pleasant surprise. Joyce has been on my radar for a while, but I've only got around to reading one of his award-winning oeuvre. This is an enchanting tale of village witchcraft - set in an amusingly prosaic paradigm - fear and midwifery in the East Midlands. The novelist's genius is that he both manages to deconstruct and re-enchant 'the Craft' - hedging his bets with psychological realism and intriguing 'moments' of mystery. Setting it in the Sixt ...more
Aug 23, 2008 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the story. And the humor appealed to me. The story is about a 20ish witch living in the British midlands in the 60s. It was classed as fantasy at my library, but it could almost pass for mainstream fiction. Most of the 'magic' is merely implied.

The book is written in first person which gives us a window onto the thoughts of the main character, but also presents a couple of problems.

The main character lives with a naivete that occasionally borders on the unbelievable. And she br
Elphaba J
Não o considerei de todo um livro vulgar, a sua escrita também não, bem como aquilo que representa.

Com um pouco de fantasia é fácil encontrar muitos retalhos de realidade nesta história passada na Inglaterra de 1966. Entre uma sociedade céptica/rígida, algum “peace and love” e a forte imposição da religião em regiões pequenas, como Midlands, região em que nos apresentada a história de Fern.

Fern é filha adoptiva de uma feiticeira, que entre os sete ofícios de uma senhora solteira para ganhar a vi
This was my first experience of Graham Joyce's work though I had read many positive things about him. In his opening acknowledgements he thanks a woman I know who is a local expert on this kind of witchcraft and paganism. This gave me confidence that he was going to approach the subject with sensitivity rather than sensationalism.

I found it a powerful work, very grounded in the period and weaving an engaging coming-of-age tale of a young woman not quite sure what world she belongs to. I was carr
Mar 30, 2015 Luzu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Romanul are nevoie de o editare mai serioasă. Există atât greşeli de tastare, cât şi gramaticale mai des decât mi se pare normal pentru un roman tipărit la o editură. Aici poate nu e vina traducatorului - Cristian Savu, ci a persoanei care s-a ocupat de corectură(:-?). Există porţiuni ale cărţii unde am găsit câte o greşeală la fiecare pagină, sau la 2-3 pagini.
25th October 2010

Not quite as I expected it to be, this book is not a horror story as classified but a story of a girl struggling to grow up in the sixties. She is the adopted daughter of the local 'wise woman' and her life is split down the middle by the old folk lore beliefs of the mother and the new modern ideas of the sixties. There is a suggestion of witchcraft but I think it is more a case of if you believe in 'the old ways' then you will believe in that influence on your life. There are r
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Graham Joyce (22 October 1954 – 9 September 2014) was an English writer of speculative fiction and the recipient of numerous awards for both his novels and short stories.

After receiving a B.Ed. from Bishop Lonsdale College in 1977 and a M.A. from the University of Leicester in 1980. Joyce worked as a youth officer for the National Association of Youth Clubs until 1988. He subsequently quit his po
More about Graham Joyce...

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“It was then that I thought: Judith I could slap your face for a whole day and not stop even for lunch.” 1 likes
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