Sandi's Reviews > Little, Big

Little, Big by John Crowley
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Sep 18, 08

bookshelves: fantasy, 2008
Read in September, 2008

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 float through their lives, controlled by powers they don’t understand. The entire book has a dream-like quality to it, and dreams are indeed an important part of the story. There is a passage in Book 6, Chapter I that pretty much sums up the whole book. It’s part of young Auberon’s mental process as he’s working on scripts for a popular soap opera.

“Why hadn’t anyone before caught the secret of it?  A simple plot was required, a single enterprise which concerned all the characters deeply, and which had a grand sweet simple single resolution:  a resolution, however, that would never be reached.  Always approached, keeping hopes high, making disappointments bitter, shaping lives and loves by its inexorable slow progress toward the present:  but never, never reached.”


“Little, Big” isn’t exactly the kind of book you can read in one sitting or a few. It needs to be nibbled at, not devoured. Fortunately, the format is very conducive to reading small bits at a time. I have to confess that I found myself sneaking peeks at what was happening ahead. Since the book meanders back and forth through time, reading ahead really made no difference whatsoever. It actually helped quite a lot to read the ending about halfway through the book because the events made much more sense in context of the ending. Because this book meanders and because it really doesn’t have much of a plot, I don’t even know if you could consider knowing the ending as really spoiling it. (Don’t worry, I won’t give away the ending.)

The one thing that really struck me about “Little, Big” is that I really had no concept of where I was in time while reading this book. It seemed like both the city and the country were frozen in time and the only way to determine the “when” was by observing which characters were around and/or picking up on subtle clues, like a Model T or a Buick station wagon with wood trim.
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