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A Glastonbury Romance (Wessex #2)

4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  232 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
First published in 1932, here is John Cowper Powys's masterwork, an epic novel of terrific cumulative force and lyrical intensity. In it he interweaves the ancient with the modern as he probes the mystical and spiritual ethos of the small English village of Glastonbury and the effect upon its inhabitants of a mystical tradition from the most remote past of human history - ...more
Paperback, 1120 pages
Published November 1st 1996 by Overlook Press (first published January 1st 1932)
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Oct 20, 2015 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jonathan by: Dorothy Richardson
This is where I grew up:

I lived there between the ages of 3 and 18, when I left for university.

The village, Hampstead Norreys, was listed in the Doomsday book. In the woods a few minutes from my house was the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle.

The Ridgeway ( ran not far from us, and we regularly walked on and over it. Neolithic tools and shards of Roman pottery were not unusual finds.

It would be fair, then, to say that a certain sort of tradi
Vit Babenco
Oct 23, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
“People going to be executed, people going to deathbeds, people going to bury their dead – their shadows look the same. Shadows have no hearts. Shadows are like men who have decided to follow Christ and to leave their loves and their loves’ children!”
In A Glastonbury Romance John Cowper Powys manages to create a gallery of personages that are as colourful as those by Charles Dickens
And there is an obvious influence of D.H. Lawrence but the sexual behaviour of the characters and their psyche are
Nikolay Nikiforov
Apr 13, 2010 Nikolay Nikiforov rated it really liked it
John Cowper Powys was a brilliant and courageous writer who possessed some truly unique insights. His book is warm, tender and makes you feel you're in the company of the most dear friend. There are many passages in this book that make you want to 'store' them somewhere, that seem to be a treasure you'd never want to lose — either because of the things he says or because of the way he says them. Unfortunately, Powys wasn't a great storyteller. The book just doesn't _cohere_, it's not well-struct ...more
Jun 22, 2014 Leonie rated it it was amazing
At the striking of noon on a certain fifth of March, there occurred within a causal radius of Brandon railway station and yet beyond the deepest pools of emptiness between the uttermost stellar systems one of those infinitesimal ripples in the creative silence of First Cause which always occur when an exceptional stir of heightened consciousness agitates any living organism in this astronomical universe.

An opening sentence only an author could love. It gets better, but it is also like this on an
May 03, 2013 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incomparable. And I use that word with more attention to its actual meaning here than I normally would. Because this book and its indomitable author, John Cowper Powys, is truly without comparison. The closest I can possibly come is to suggest (and it's ONLY a suggestion, a very weak, unwieldy arrow shot at this book in an attempt to pin it down to something more identifiable and, thus, less potent) that it has the strange, heady flavor of some kind of mixture of Dickens at his best and Blake at ...more
Feb 11, 2009 Amber rated it it was amazing
A Glastonbury Romance is an immense book. There are 47 principle characters in all and if that's not a lot, there's always all the extras whose names make it in but who quickly pass out. A Glastonbury Romance encompasses the widest girth of human experience I could imagine, as I can't wonder what John Cowper Powys has left out. Read more about this "girt" book here.
Ian Florance
The first sentence is known as the Beechers Brook of British fiction and if you get major arm problems from holding its huge weight you can hollow it out and use it as a garden shed. In other words a huge novel that tries the most dedicated reader. If you persevere you'll have a unique experience. Powys is a one off, seen as a link between Hardy and Lawrence he in fact is entirely his own man. If you get this it will set you on a lifetime relationship with a great, very odd mind.
Chris Gager
Jan 13, 2016 Chris Gager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came upon this author via reading "The Information" in which the author's mouthpiece(Richard) says that Powys is a neglected genius. I hope so 'cause this is a big 'un...

Glastonbury(Connecticut)... land of my mother's youth... no, not THAT Glastonbury. This one's Somersetshire, West Country. I'm just a little ways in and already sort of stunned by the author's semi-delirious prose. Lot's going on already: family reunion, a stunning and capricious inheritance decision, childhood sweethearts re-
Aug 19, 2014 Stevenson rated it it was amazing
Why has this book been forgotten? One of the great works of the 20th Century with such a huge scope, which combines the mythical and the Epic weaving together the micro and the macro and creating astonishing links between them.

Set btewwen the wars the novel's plot revolves around the troubles between Phillip Crow an industrialist in Glastonbury and John Geard a lay preacher and mayor and their two conflicting visions of Glastonbury. Crow is a materialist capitalist whose dye works are the main
Aug 24, 2010 TK421 marked it as to-read
Shelves: family-epic
Okay, so I heard about this book about three years ago, and although I have ventured into other areas of reading, I am now committed to this novel. Sure the writing is dense. And at times I have to go back to the beginning of a sentence to unravel just what exactly is being said, but it is pure beauty. Lyrical. Poetical. Charming. And, yes, verbose. But, and I can only attest to my own reading habits, it is so great to read a novel where the author proverbially tells the reader: I'm not going to ...more
Dec 06, 2009 Donson rated it it was amazing
George Steiner's claim that this book marks Powys as the only English novelist fit to stand in the company of Dostoevski or Tolstoi may be a bit over the top, but only in the word "only." This sweeping panorama of all the range of expressions of love (and I do mean all) is surely one of the great novels in any language. The story, too complex to summarize, deals with the twin impacts on the town of Glastonbury of a visionary attempting to revive the medieval mysteries in a community pageant and ...more
I tried to read this hefty tome way back in the late 70s when going through an Arthurian phase, and for a very long time it had the distinction of being the only book I started but could not finish. These days I no longer try to struggle through novels that just don't do it for me but at that time it really bothered me that I couldn't make myself keep going long enough for something in the novel to grab me. I was especially niggled because my then-boyfriend now-husband managed it and he wasn't t ...more
Jul 27, 2011 John rated it really liked it
So detailed every page is a novel, every page an exploration of nature. And the best opening ever, full of magic and mysticism
Nigel Massey
Jan 12, 2015 Nigel Massey rated it it was amazing
After speaking to Esther de Waal, I'm convinced that no one reads this book any more; which is a pity. It's a long read, but the characterization and the sheer love of everything Celtic makes it compelling. If anything was needed to remind us that Celtic spirituality is not 'environmentally aware', but is obsessed with twilight and death, this is the book. The landscape is a fantastic background to the fantastic story of a Passion Play which is the culmination of the book; life/death/resurrectio ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: misc-fiction
Astonishingly detailed and quirky descriptions of eccentric characters. The first paragraph sums up the sense of universal animism that pervades all of Powys's books and especially his main characters... "At the striking of noon on a certain fifth of March, there occurred within a causal radius of Brandon railway station and yet beyond the deepest pools of emptiness between the uttermost stellar systems one of those infinitesimal ripples in the creative silence of First Cause which always occur ...more
MP Koch
Feb 06, 2016 MP Koch rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Eccentric, rambling, unabashed by risking all the world in his words, GR, along with Porius, is the most Powysian (sorry for that!) of Powys. This is a world-making in this word. Drunk with language character, and caricature (and for Powys these two are often one) it is visionary and mundane. It takes a peculiar kind of reader to be able to swallow it all. If you can, it will perhaps utterly transform how you view the world.
Nov 06, 2009 David rated it liked it
A hefty tome. Can only be comfortably read in bed when you're propped up on the pillows with a mug of hot chocolate. The author, after a long period of neglect, is coming back into vogue. It is a sort of family drama but full of new-age-ish undertones. As George Steiner says in the blurb, he's the nearest thing the English have to Dostoyevsky. The effect is the same as well - it feels like a long slog getting through it, but when you finish you feel the cumulative effect as a sort of delayed org ...more
Feb 09, 2013 Princessofwails rated it it was amazing
I read this massive novel at a time when Glastonbury was emotionally important, which probably coloured my attitude to the novel. Cooper Powys wrote this with the aid of OS maps, so it's topographically as precise as it can be (& I think wrote it while in the States?). It's a great vast sweep of a book, with many characters (too many?). It comes in & out of print - if you're interested, get a second-hand copy. One for winter, with a crackling fire
Aug 24, 2014 Ellie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic
I'm re-reading this. An all time favourite book of mine that occasionally I re-read alongside whatever I'm currently working on. At present I'm reading David Spangler and incarnational spirituality and RJ Stewart and the faerie shamanism and magical work. This is a good accompaniment to that and also it is so beautifully written. It's like coming home everytime I read the first page.
J. Whitley
Feb 16, 2013 J. Whitley rated it did not like it
I read 500 pages and gave up because I did not like the characters.
George Snyder
May 08, 2013 George Snyder rated it really liked it
Epic. English. Made me appreciate Iris Murdoch more.
Wayne McNeill
Oct 16, 2013 Wayne McNeill rated it it was amazing
The greatest novel in the world. Try to beat that.
Morticia Adams
Oct 16, 2011 Morticia Adams rated it liked it
Great writing, messy meandering story, too long!
Feb 09, 2008 Bryan rated it it was amazing
Powys' masterwork.
Jan 06, 2015 Bettie☯ marked it as maybe
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Kanti
to look into further.
Doug Johnson
Doug Johnson rated it really liked it
Feb 09, 2016
Katherine Tallent
Katherine Tallent marked it as to-read
Feb 07, 2016
Edward Cowling
Edward Cowling rated it really liked it
Feb 06, 2016
Rachel marked it as to-read
Feb 04, 2016
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Powys was born in Shirley, Derbyshire, where his father was vicar. His mother was descended from the poet William Cowper, hence his middle name. His two younger brothers, Llewelyn Powys and Theodore Francis Powys, also became well-known writers. Other brothers and sisters also became prominent in the arts. John studied at Sherborne School and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and became a teacher ...more
More about John Cowper Powys...

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“It is strange how few people make more than a casual cult of enjoying Nature. And yet the earth is actually and literally the mother of us all. One needs no strange spiritual faith to worship the earth.” 27 likes
“There occurred within a causal radius of Brandon Station one of those infinitesimal ripples in the creative silence of the First Cause. In the soul of the great blazing sun there were complicated superhuman vibrations [connected] ... with the feelings of a few intellectual sages who had enough imagination to recognise the conscious personality of this fiery orb as it flung far and wide its life-giving magnetic forces. Roaring, cresting, heaving, gathering, mounting, advancing, receding, the enormous fire-thoughts of this huge luminary surged relentlessly to and fro, evoking a turbulent aura of psychic activity.” 5 likes
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