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Little, Big by John Crowley
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Nov 01, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, fantasy, nectar-of-the-gods
Recommended for: everyone
Read in January, 1984 — I own a copy , read count: 3

Five stars are not enough. This is an intricate, moving, funny, warm, wondrous, delicate filigree of a novel.

It's a family saga over the course of a century, set largely in a house and estate in upstate New York called Edgewood. This rambling home is indeed on the edge - it seems to intersect with the land of faery, though there is nothing twee about these fairy-folk. Characters drift uncertainly between one world and the other. Deals are made, enormous yet murky plans move forward.

Our principle protagonist, Smoky Barnable, marries into this world and finds himself unable to buy into the family's quietly-held beliefs, just as he is unable to fix the perpetual-motion machine in the attic. Ariel Hawksquill, a memory-witch, seeks to unravel the mysteries of Edgewood in the mansions of her mind, while Smoky's poor old friend George Mouse and Smoky's love-torn son try to escape them in New York.

It's difficult to convey the sprawling themes of this generous and luminous fantasy (deeply immersed, as John Clute put it, in A Midsummer Night's Dream), but it carries the reader gently into a place of wonder. The prose is as finely crafted as old lace and the internal design of the book has the feel of something antique and intricate. (Crowley wanted a still more lush presentation, and recently (2009) an expensive illustrated collector's editon was released.)

Everything by John Crowley is a gift the world hasn't earned, but if you only read one of his books, this is the one.
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