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The Limits of Enchantment: A Novel

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  489 ratings  ·  55 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 pat

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Hardcover, 263 pages
Published February 22nd 2005 by Atria Books (first published January 1st 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,426)
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Jeff
For me this is an outstanding book. By that I mean, one of the best that I have read.

Why?

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/
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Stacy
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.

This
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Philip
This is SO not a genre novel...it'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.
Christine
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
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Jaye
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." "
Althea Ann
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
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Alexandra Lucas
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
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Catherine
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
Pam
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.
Trunatrschild
Oct 13, 2008 Trunatrschild rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Alison
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
Suzanne
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
Glenda
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
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Traci
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
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Ron Charles
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
Carmen
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
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Kevan Manwaring
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
Linda
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
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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
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Vivienne
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
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Jo
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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Mawgojzeta
I find this to be one of Joyce's most unfulfilling books for me. I wanted more from the ending. I am not certain what exactly I wanted, but more. (view spoiler) ...more
Julia
Dec 13, 2008 Julia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of fantasy, creative art
Recommended to Julia by: my daughter
Shelves: magical-realism
I had read REQUIEM by Joyce awhile ago, but forgot how magical he can be. This story of Fern Cullen and Mammy touched me in many ways--my memories of my Granny in WV, who only finished 2nd grade, but was very wise. That's Mammy in this book. She's a midwife, and Fern has learned from her--but that's just the tip of the iceberg of this book. Joyce uses language to mesmerize--when Fern must experience the mysterious "Asking" to become part of the enchanted world, the sentences read like poetry. Th ...more
Fence
I’m quite a fan of Graham Joyce and his writing. He really knows how to suck you into the worlds he creates. His are novels that tend to straddle the “genre” divide. You could as easily class them under general fiction as under fantasy. And I’m sure some genre snobs would never think of him as a fantasy writer. Me, I see the teeniest bit of magic and it is going under sff. This novel, The Limits of Enchantment, is set in rural England in the 1960′s, when modern medical practices are taking over ...more
Rivka Cymbalist
Wonderful, perfect book about an unregistered midwife herbalist and her life in the English countryside in the swinging sixties
Maria Daines
Jun 24, 2009 Maria Daines is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I'm on page 25 and totally absorbed, like nothing I've ever read before and I love every word! Daren't read any other reviews in case they spoil it for me. Graham Joyce is a fascinating writer, thanks to Bill for giving me this book and insisting I read it! It's one of those that I can't wait for nightfall to get stuck in and continue, wish I was a faster reader but then again it's nice to read it slowly and really enjoy it. Oh & it's very amusing too and I was hooked by the intro paragraph ...more
Carol
Set in 1966, this little magical realist novel concerns Fern Cullen, a young woman raised in rural England by Mammy, a wise-woman whose main focus is midwifery and related things. The story is centered around a crisis point that brings Fern into full adulthood and forces her to confront the problem of how to continue the ways of the wise-woman in an increasingly modern world. There's nothing revolutionary or ground-breaking about this novel, but it is a very enjoyable read, with endearing charac ...more
Catie
A lovely book. So sad I can no longer walk up to the author and tell him so...
Relyn
Dec 30, 2009 Relyn rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hmmmm...
Recommended to Relyn by: Susan Tuttle
I'm not sure what to say about this book. I loved the odd, magical, whimsical feel of it. I loved the strange characters, so exactly right for a small village in rural England. The story was interesting, too. So, what was the problem, you ask. Well. Hmmm... It was a little big ponderous. Yes, that's it. The story line just didn't move along nearly fast enough. Not nearly. Perhaps a fast story line wouldn't have suited such a book, but it suits me. So, I liked it. But, definitely didn't love it.
Elizabeth
I was perhaps not part of the target demographic for which this book was written. I began reading on a flight, and found myself thorough confused about halfway into it, but felt compelled to continue reading simply because I felt like I needed to know what happened to the characters, in the hope that something would turn around, and everything would be back on track (in my mind, at least). I found the book to be very strange with many elements left unexplained. I got very little satisfaction fro ...more
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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
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More about Graham Joyce...
Some Kind of Fairy Tale The Silent Land The Tooth Fairy Dark Sister The Facts of Life

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