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Quincunx Paperback – Nov 27 1990

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (Nov. 27 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345371135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345371133
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 4.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 726 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #75,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The epic length of this first novel--nearly 800 densely typeset pages--should not put off readers, for its immediacy is equal to its heft. Palliser, an English professor in Scotland, where this strange yet magnetic work was first published, has modeled his extravagantly plotted narrative on 19th-century forms--Dickens's Bleak House is its most obvious antecedent--but its graceful writing and unerring sense of timing revivifies a kind of novel once avidly read and surely now to be again in demand. The protagonist, a young man naive enough to be blind to all clues about his own hidden history (and to the fact that his very existence is troubling to all manner of evildoers) narrates a story of uncommon beauty which not only brings readers face-to-face with dozens of piquantly drawn characters at all levels of 19th-century English society but re-creates with precision the tempestuous weather and gnarly landscape that has been a motif of the English novel since Wuthering Heights . The suspension of disbelief happens easily, as the reader is led through twisted family trees and plot lines. The quincunx of the title is a heraldic figure of five parts that appears at crucial points within the text (the number five recurs throughout the novel, which itself is divided into five parts, one for each of the family galaxies whose orbits the narrator is pulled into). Quintuple the length of the ordinary novel, this extraordinary tour de force also has five times the ordinary allotment of adventure, action and aplomb. Literary Guild dual main selection.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

First novelist Palliser combines an eye for social detail and vivid descriptions of the dark side of 19th-century London with a gift for intricate plotting and sinister character development reminiscent of 19th-century novels. He weaves a complicated tale of a codacil containing a crucial entail, the possible existence of a second will, and a multiplicity of characters--all mysteriously related--seeking to establish their claims to a vast and ancient estate. Related by a young boy who often appears too worldly for his sheltered upbringing and wise beyond his years, the story occasionally bogs down in innuendo and detail which become tedious rather than suspenseful. Nevertheless, overall, this is a gripping novel. Highly recommended. Literary Guild dual main selection. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/89.
- Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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First Sentence
It must have been late autumn of that year, and probably it was towards dusk for the sake of being less conspicuous. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tiggah on Dec 21 2002
Format: Paperback
With a huge, colourful cast of characters, The Quincunx by British author Charles Palliser is, like Edward Rutherfurd's London, the kind of book that comes along all too rarely--a book wherein one loses all sense of the present as one is transported back through history to another time and place. This is a novel that is at once a family saga, an adventure, and a mystery with plenty of twists and surprises. With it, Palliser has proven himself to be a master storyteller, and it has been a long time since I have enjoyed a book as much as this. In fact, I'm not sure it didn't surpass London--another historical of epic proportions that I highly recommend--as my favourite novel by a contemporary author. (I ought to mention I've yet to read Eco's The Name of the Rose).
At 781 pages, however, this historical masterpiece set in early nineteenth-century England is not for the faint of heart. At stake is a legacy--title to a huge estate of land. Though the story literally takes place during the span of several years, it is a tale about an extended family (and their relationships with one another) whose beginnings take us back five generations. Bit by bit the family history is revealed--and it is a history rife with intrigue, double dealings, scandal, and even murder. What makes the revelation of the family history so exciting and so important is its relevance to the novel's present, for not only is the identity of our young protagonist and narrator, Johnnie Mellamphy, at issue, but his very survival hangs delicately in the balance.
Those for whom this engrossing, unputdownable novel will be a special treat are those who enjoy solving word or logic puzzles (I am a puzzle buff myself).
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Format: Paperback
Charles Palliser has created an amazing book in "The Quincunx", a huge novel that could have been written 150 years before. "The Quincunx" is a Victorian book, but easier to read, more cynic, more sarcastic and even somberer. It's almost impossible to go through its 1200 paperback pages without a notebook specifically set aside by the reader to write down scattered information, genealogies, twists, new characters and locations, and I would advise future readers to do just that.
The main plot (the book has dozens of inter-related plots) is about John Mellamphy, a young boy living with his mother and a couple of nurses and maids in the early 19th century in rural England. Young Master John doesn't know it yet , but his family's past history is extremely strange and complicated. When the past begins to catch up with John and his unfortunate mother, they will experience extreme poverty, desillusion, weakness. In the Victorian London, gray, crowded, violent (masterfully described by Palliser) they will descend to the lower conditions a human life can possibly bear, dragging with them many other characters as they appear in the story, and not all of them will be able to reach the surface again.
Many aspects of the book are really interesting. For example, unusual names like Phumphred, Mallyphant and Steplight help to create the necessary grimy atmosphere adequate to a victorian novel. And what is best, Palliser treats his reader in an intelligent way: he chekced and re-cheked his plots, found inconsistencies, corrected them. Palliser doesn't reveal everything in his lines. Many things he's left the reader to discover for himself, and some other things have no solution.
Is "The Quincunx" an easy read? Far from that. But those who will be able to reach its ending will be rewarded with an unforgettable story.
Grade 9.3/10
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Format: Paperback
After reading Charles Palliser's "Quincunx" I felt as if I had participated in a triathlon. This is not a book for those with short attention spans or for those who lack patience. Although I usually like epic novels, if the plot is interesting and varied and the characters well developed, I found this novel very difficult to get through. The book has been hyped as "Dickensian" but the only similarities to the work of Charles Dickens' lie in its length, 781 densely printed pages, its setting, Victorian England, and many of its characters who are the poor and disenfranchised. The quality of writing, storyline and character development are not at all comparable to that of the great novelist.
Young John Huffam, our hero, and his mother have been hiding from their enemies from the time of his birth. John is heir to vast lands and a title, which seemingly every character in the book lays claim to. There is a lost will and a secret codicil that officially proclaim John the rightful heir to enormous wealth. The entire novel is based on his search for his identity and for his hereditary rights. Parallel to this purpose are the many attempts to thwart him, usually by greedy family members he has no knowledge of. They either want John dead, or alive and in their power. For the duration of the novel John barely escapes from one near-death experience after another. In spite of his obvious intelligence and precocity, he is totally blind to all clues about his true history and dilemma. He naively trusts everyone, even after numerous betrayals. He bumbles from one mishap to another, with apparently half of London's population following him and wishing him ill.
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