- Paperback: 576 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1 edition (Oct. 17 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061120057
- ISBN-13: 978-0061120053
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 939 g
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #142,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Little, Big Paperback – Oct 17 2006
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About the Author
John Crowley lives in the hills of northern Massachusetts with his wife and twin daughters. He is the author of ten previous novels as well as the short fiction collection, Novelties & Souvenirs.
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About half of this gorgeous story takes place in New York City, although Crowley never actually calls it that, he just writes, "the City," while the other half takes place at Edgewood (you will find as you read that none of the names in this book are chosen at random, each has a special significance that eventually becomes crystal clear). Edgewood is an unsurpassingly complicated house, built around the turn of the century, by an architect whose wife could see...faeries.
Although we never meet the faeries directly in this novel, their presence is felt through almost all of the book. They are the faeries of A Midsummer Night's Dream, embodying the qualities of mischievousness, whimsy, capriciousness and untrustworthiness. The faeries are also an odd mix of power and vulnerability, but their spirit is in decline. Much of what happens in Little, Big happens because the faeries must rejuvenate the old with the new. Far from being a simple tale of magic or fantasy, this a highly complex one; Little, Big is a mammoth work of more than 600 pages in length.
The story begins with Smoky Barnable, an ordinary man who marries into an extraordinary family (the architect's great-granddaughter). It is Smoky who introduces us to Edgewood and to the subtle, but fantastic presence that his wife's family seems to take for granted. Smoky has a difficult time adjusting and sometimes he feels as though he's the only sane person in an otherwise insane world. The other residents of Edgewood see it differently; they somehow realize that a grand scheme is being played out and that once it is, their lives, as well as the lives of the faeries, will take on a luminous new meaning.
As we near the end of the century, Smoky's son Auberon leaves Edgewood for the City. It is, however, not quite the magical city that Smoky knew. There is a depression, nothing runs quite like it should and a feeling of dread looms over all. Against this background of dread, Auberon meets and falls in love with Sylvie. It is her disappearance that provides the catalyst for the final act of the faeries' scheme.
Despite Little, Big's length, not a word in the book is wasted. Everything is essential, everything is perfect and everything is perfectly placed. There are digressions and detours, but they all have their purpose. And, even if they didn't, they are a joy to read, in and of themselves.
This is a book that unfolds slowly, like new Spring leaves or roses on a perfect summer's day, but slowly is just right for Little, Big. Crowley conveys so many emotions in this book: joy, sorrow, loss, lust but most of all, love. By the time you reach the end, you come to a slow but perfect understanding of why the faeries' rejuvenation is so crucial. This is a beautiful and beautifully-told tale and one that lingers...like a lover's kiss or the end of that perfect summer's day.
The story of an (somewhat) ordinary man who marries into an extraordinary family, Little, Big is such an incredibly allusive work that every year when I go back to it I find new things to understand. And until I finish the complete works of Lewis Carroll, not to mention Shakespeare and god only knows what else, I can never truly finish this book. It is a rare book that can keep surprising you after ten years' worth of re-reading, but Little, Big manages to do just that, like a comfortingly familiar old friend who shows up every year or so with some delightful and surprising little gifts for you. It is beautifully, delicately written, and wholly captivating. You'll read it and wish you too could live at Edgewood with Smoky, Daily Alice and the rest of the Drinkwater family.
Read this book. And prepare to spend the rest of your life with it...happily ever after.
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.
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