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The Quincunx
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Archived 2015 Group Reads > 05/04 The Quincunx, Chapters 116- The End

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message 1: by Zulfiya (last edited May 05, 2015 11:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) The End! The End! The End! The end is not Victorian, but very very modern.

1. The character has a possibility to become rich, but he seems to be willing to accept the life of uncertainty.

Some of the mysteries are still mysteries on par with modern literary fiction here answers are hardly ever provided for the questions that are asked.

In our case, it is Johnnie's parenthood. Johnnie is still not sure who was his father and what truth is hidden behind the folds of history and secrecy. Yest again, a very modern trick.

2. The character is in love but unhappy as Henrietta is not reciprocating his feelings. She is not only an outcast; she voluntarily stays away from the public eye due to her condition - pregnancy. BTW, when speaking about pregnancy, Palliser is as elusive as an old-school Victorian writer.

3. The final scene reminded me of the final scene in Great Expectations. It virtually copies this iconic scene. As it is known, Dickens originally planned separation for his character, but the peer pressure was strong and he had to show some leniency to his characters, as he consequently did in the later version where he grants Pip a chance to be with Estella.

In this novel, the chance is minuscule and virtually non-existent.

4. The main character, Johnnie, in the end of the novel, is quite unhappy is possibly going through his next existential experience. Life is what it is: it might be brutal, treacherous, and hard, but this is life, and it is what it is. Period.


Have you noticed other contradictions between the old form (Victorian) and the new meaning (Modern/existential)?


P.S. Please feel free to post your thoughts on the book in general.


message 2: by Mary Anne (last edited May 06, 2015 06:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mary Anne (dorhastings) Wow okay, I clearly do not know a thing about Victorian literature and didn't interpret that right, about Henrietta and pregnancy. I knew I was missing something at the end, but still.


Mary Anne (dorhastings) Well okay maybe it wasn't Victorian, but I wouldn't know the difference, so there we are.


Bonnie I thought Henrietta's condition was madness and roaming around.

I was disappointed in the ending (two weeks ago, I just kept reading) but will read it again with the Victorian/ modern divergence in mind.

After all the reading, the years we spent with Johnnie and the details we knew about his life, it didn't seem to add up to much. I was hoping for a more cathartic ending maybe?

Also I thought Henry was Good so I couldn't quite buy his going Bad (with no foreshadowing).


Mary Anne (dorhastings) I gave the book four stars in the end.

Would it be appropriate to post part of my review here?


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Please do!


Mary Anne (dorhastings) Thank you, Zulfiya!

There was a lot to like about this book. Man, I hated so many of the characters, and you're not meant to like them. From Mr Silas Clothier to all of the Mompessons, there are a lot of people to hate. I never got around to liking Johnnie's mother, Mary Clothier, because I found her very whiny and reluctant. On the other hand, I did quite like Johnnie, and of course you had to support him all the way. You wanted him to find the truth just as much as he did, and I wasn't ready to give up just because he wanted to avoid the trouble.

And then you kind of understood why Johnnie made the decisions he made. So much of his borderline miserable life had been dictated to him because of all these terrible people trying to one-up each other for wealth. You had to admire that he wanted to avoid the temptations of wealth, even if it would make sure he wouldn't be poor. And of course he wanted to show that he wouldn't be a terrible person like almost every other member of his family. He gets that people wanted "vengeance" and "justice" at any cost, and the costs were that everyone was, at least at some point, completely miserable. And I think it sends a contemporary message: pride and vengeance have real consequences.

The book itself is one whole "Series of Unfortunate Events", for Johnnie comes so close to something good before getting smacked back into unhappiness. You might hope for an ending where he gets to be with Henrietta, Mrs Digweed, Joey, and Sukey in a massive house where they don't have anything to worry about forever. But of course life (and sometimes fiction) doesn't work out that way. Perhaps the best thing is that Johnnie finally gets to make his own decisions and living his own life. He seems realistic and eager to move on (and he's been ready to move on for months).

The tragedy, of course, is how many characters suffered. Miss Quilliam, Johnnie's parents, Miss Lydia, Henrietta. And so many characters who were mistreated because of what seemed like a genetic mental illness.


message 8: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 152 comments Bonnie wrote: "I thought Henrietta's condition was madness and roaming around.

I was disappointed in the ending (two weeks ago, I just kept reading) but will read it again with the Victorian/ modern divergence ..."


I didn't get that she was pregnant either. There may have been all kinds of nuances at the end that I missed... I was just glad we were done. The end was not cathartic in any way, but there did seem to be something perfect about Johnny and Henrietta losing out on their chance at a destined romance. The whole book was just one misstep after another.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) There were the lines that I took as hints of her pregnancy - 'She can't stay there alone! Not like that.' Then later ' ... she wore not bonnet, and her dress (the one she had been wearing the last time I had seen her) was patched where it had been let out '. Later in the final paragraphs Johnnie says, 'It had been six months since her elopement with Henry, since her journey with him, and since the night at the Blue dragon inn, and since his death before her eyes'.

Again, I might be trying to find clues where they do not exist, but it seems like Henrietta mentioned earlier in the novel that she had been seduced by Henry Bellringer.

'He seduced me', she said simply
'He seduced me, too,' I said, and now she looked at me in surprise. 'He can be very charming'
'I don't think you understand,' she said, shaking her head. (Chapter 120)

Definitely there is some madness roaming in the quincunx family tree, and Henrietta obviously is hinged or emotionally disturbed, but I still think that pregnancy is hinted between the lines.


message 10: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 152 comments Zulfiya wrote: "There were the lines that I took as hints of her pregnancy - 'She can't stay there alone! Not like that.' Then later ' ... she wore not bonnet, and her dress (the one she had been wearing the last ..."

Yes, I can see it now from what you've pointed out... but staying out in the ruins, by herself, without clothing or aid, also smacks of crazy. So she's a loony pregnant woman at the end, and Johnny doesn't do or say anything to relieve the situation.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) To me, it seems like it was a proto-Victorian novel for the biggest part of the book where questions have answers and secrets have explanations, and then suddenly it was not. It suddenly became a very modern book of nuances, ambiguities, half-truth and many truths. Out of nowhere, it became a post-modern chunkster.


Kaycie | 294 comments I also got the pregnancy thing, Zulfiya...I suspected that she was seduced before the wedding from the line you mentioned. Once I read her section at the very end, I was already looking for clues of a pregnancy.

I agree that the ending didn't feel satisfying after the whole book.

This book was weird for me. I have never read Palliser before, but I am curious to read another to see if its him as an author I didn't like or the book. I actually really liked the mystery and the plot, but unfortunately, the story got in the way. I found it WAY too predictable because I have read so much victorian lit and he didn't stray from already-done scenes at all. As an example, the escape from prison I saw coming from a mile away. In Palliser's defense, I thought it was going to be MORE monte cristo-ian (the old man who was talking to Johnnie would be the one to die), but I still suspected that is what would happen. The way the book was written also took away a lot of the suspense for me...a big event would happen to build suspense, then it would go back down to really nothing while Palliser described for chapters some victorian thing he reserached before the next big event would take place. I liked a lot of what I read in the book, but it didn't integrate well into the story for me. The up and down in the suspense levels left my attention waning.

Overall, I am glad I read it, but I don't rank it too highly in my victorian-like books.

Zulfiya, you mentioned previously that you loved neo-victorian lit. What other books might classify as that category? How do they compare to the Quincunx?


message 13: by SusanK (last edited May 16, 2015 10:09PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

SusanK Finished! Another Neo-Victorian attribute of this novel was its unrelenting darkness. As mentioned earlier, the handful of sympathetic characters are overwhelmed by characters who are criminal, self-interested, and down-right evil. Most of the action takes place in the winter or at night. All is cold, dark, damp, foggy, or even subterranean.

Mr. Palliser brought a definite point of view. His early chapters on political economy with Justice versus Equity altered over time into Revenge versus Justice. Johnnie's bleak view of life is certainly conditioned by his struggles to survive. Can his damaged personality recover?

Did it recover? Was he able to rescue Pentecost and/or Silverlight from debtor's prison? Because, I was never convinced that the 3rd person omniscient narrator of the Book interludes was Johnnie himself. It sounded far more like either of those gentlemen. But, perhaps he just integrated their philosophies into his life view.

I enjoyed The Quincunx very much and was glad to have read it along with the good discussions here. Thank you!


Deana (ablotial) Pregnant?! I never would have seen that. But now, reading Zulfiya's clues, I think that's the case. It makes me sad, though, that Johnnie didn't do more to try to convince her to leave the graveyard. I had high hopes for the future of those two kids and am sad that the ending didn't play out that way.

And the lack of knowledge about the parentage is still frustrating, although I suppose it doesn't change much since he's still Mary's son no matter what, and that's where all the trouble from the codicil comes from. I am leaning toward "uncle Martin", but it's hard to say for sure.

SusanK - I agree that the omnicient narrator that used the Adjectives instead of names did not feel like Johnnie. And some of the things revealed in those sections, I have to wonder how Johnnie would have ever learned of them.


Teanka SusanK wrote: "Did it recover? Was he able to rescue Pentecost and/or Silverlight from debtor's prison? "

I believe Mr Pentecost died in debtor's prison so he couldn't be rescued by Johnny.

I completely agree with what you wrote about the darkness of the novel. Even the ending was dark, if you consider what happened with Henrietta. I anticipated her wedding with Johnny, and instead I also understood that she was pregnant.

I want to thank you all for reading this novel together, I don't think I would have read it without this group as I never even knew it existed.


Deana (ablotial) Teanka - I never knew this book existed either, so probably would never have read it without this group. But when it was suggested, the plotline looked really interesting and I was quickly hooked. Although there were a few sections that I felt I had to slog through which caused me to fall behind, I enjoyed the book in the end and am glad I read it.


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