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The Limits of Enchantment

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  954 ratings  ·  109 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

Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Washington Square Press (first published January 1st 2005)
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3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  954 ratings  ·  109 reviews

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Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Wayne Barrett
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"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
Althea Ann
Nov 24, 2011 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
Dec 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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.

Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 03, 2009 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
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Graham Joyce. I kissed this book when I finished it, and held it to my heart. I've enjoyed every book that I've read by this author. I've even closed several of them thinking, "this one was my favorite". But The Limits of Enchantment took me exactly where I was looking to go right now. It hit me in all the right places. It piqued my curiosity, it flowed from my learning of the past year, it entertained me, it made me fall in love with the characters, it made me hate characters, and it ...more
Josephine (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
May 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Alexandra Lucas
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Tatyana Naumova
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Не лучший, но очень приятный роман Грэма Джойса про акушерок и минуточки волшебства (а также про то, что в Центральной Англии широко распространен БЛУД).
So.....this was just good for me....not great. I still love Joyce's writing style and I loved the magical realism. I never really got attached to the characters though. Half the time I couldn't figure Fern out. I found the "asking" very confusing and I still don't think I understand it. The giant hare? That part felt more weird than magical for me.

Still a favorite author and I plan to read all of his books.
Siia Semenova
Roman aflat undeva la limita imperceptibilă dintre literatură mainstream și fantasy, dacă există vreo urmă de fantasy în el și nu e mai degrabă realism magic. Ne aflăm în UK, anii 1960-1970, americanii testează viața animalelor în spațiu, însă în mica localitate britanică Fren își urmează mama adoptivă în tainele moșitului. Mammy e și vraciul local, nu doar moașa care i-a adus pe toți pe lume sau cea care operează ilegal întreruperile de sarcină aflând secretele neștiute de nimeni. Însă casa în ...more
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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 empêchée de rentrer parfois dans cette histoire, mais il traine quelques belles émotions après l'avoir terminé.
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, fiction
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." "
Oct 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ron Charles
Dec 16, 2013 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
Tor Gar
Libro que “cuenta poco” pero es todo muy sutil. Sin grandes aspavientos hay crítica social y cultural, paso de la adolescencia para encontrarse de frente con la adultez y todo con un aura fantástica pero sin llegar a caer en ella. Son hechos cotidianos pero contados muy bien, con delicadeza y suavidad.

Sin grandes revelaciones ni poso es un libro que se hace agradable de leer.
Nádia Batista
Já há muito tempo que queria ler este livro de Graham Joyce. Depois de duas experiências fantásticas com o autor, pude finalmente ler esta obra, e as expectativas eram imensas. Se calhar, foi por isso que Os Limites do Encantamento não me conquistou por completo. Eu esperava algo que me abalasse, me deixasse sem ar depois da leitura, e não foi isso que aconteceu. Malditas expectativas!

A história é... interessante, no todo. Embora eu esperasse um ambiente mais rústico e medieval, somos transporta
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Fay Brown
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first book by Joyce, and it won't be the last. It was an absorbing read with fully realised and convincing characters, particularly in our narrator - the vivid and often naive Fern. Joyce evokes 1960s Britain brilliantly, with a slim patina of hedge magic gently woven into a tale of social outcasts. I can find first person narration annoying, but Fern's voice was compelling. The Limit of Enchantment is a combination of coming of age, magical realism and social commentary that particu ...more
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Saima Nisbet
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
This is my second Graham Joyce and it was just as enjoyable as the first (Some Kind of Fairytale). Set in 1966, it's a story about a mother and her adopted child who have a connection to the land and are wise in the ways that the land can be of medicinal help in their midwifery roles that are threatened by the growth of the NHS. A village that both seeks help and turns it's back on these two mystical women. The story is a modern fairytale and engrossing to the last word.
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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
“It was then that I thought: Judith I could slap your face for a whole day and not stop even for lunch.” 2 likes
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