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Magical in Every Sense
on June 30, 2004
Little, Big is no easy read, but is well worth the time. To summarize the plot briefly just to give an idea of the backdrop, Little, Big tells the Tale of Smokey Barnable, an ordinary man who leaves the City to visit with the family of one of his coworkers at their country house, Edgewood. There he meets (and marries) Daily Alice Drinkwater and her family, who all are Somehow part of a larger tapestry bridging the world as Smokey knows it and the world of the faerie. Be forewarned, though -- for a book about Faerie, don't expect little people with pointy ears on each page a la Lord of the Rings (which I love, btw, that is not meant disparagingly). On first read, there won't seem to be a lot of Faerie in it at all. But, the Faerie are mostly hidden on each page of Little, Big just as they are in Edgewood, and thoughout the read the sense of magic is everywhere.
Little, Big is at once epic in scope and deeply personal, magical and commonplace. That is part of the wonder of the book, the sense of magic that Crowley works into the quotidian, the feeling that something so unplausible really could be. Crowley's prose is incredibly rich, atmospheric and moving -- I often found myself wondering how he could write so many rich and beautiful lines in one book without ever feeling artificial.
There is not a lot of action, although so many things happen. There is not a lot of dialogue, although there are at least 8 major characters and scores of supporting players. And, as mentioned, there's not a lot of faeries, although they are everywhere (read it and you'll understand!). But, Little, Big is easily one of the best books I've read in the past ten years, the kind of work that is as magical as its subject matter and makes you long for more works this grand. It is a crime that Crowley has not found a wider audience, he is truly one of the most talented writers I've read.