Posted by: Sally Ingraham | July 15, 2009

Little, Big

Little Bigby John Crowley

I’ve been on the brink of writing something about this book for the past week. I keep sitting down and staring at the computer screen instead. I can’t seem to frame my thoughts at all.

At over 500 pages, the book is an epic tale which, in it’s simplest terms, traces the story of Smoky Barnable and his life after he marries Daily Alice Drinkwater. It’s about Edgewood, a mysterious house which may, or may not, be a door into another world. It’s a family saga, a secret history of an unspecified area of New England. There are faeries, sort of. There is the TALE, the hinted at fate that the entire Drinkwater clan has been moving toward since Violet Drinkwater left England a hundred years ago.

It’s really beautifully written, and moves along at a steady, dreamy pace. The characters – a whole family tree worth of them – vary in how solid they appear, which is kind of appropriate. I felt, as I read, that I was seeing the events of the story through a pool of water that rippled just enough to never provide a clear picture. It was a fascinating way to experience a novel, although I’m glad most of the things I read are not so…vague. I felt as though I was piecing together a stained glass window and if I could just get it together it would be brilliant. I liked the book a lot, but I finished it with an uneasy sense of having not really gotten it.

From some interviews I’ve read, I think that John Crowley would not be surprised at my reaction. He intentionally wrote it “through a glass darkly” I think. It’s bugging me though. I have an obsessive desire to read it again and soon. This time I’ll take notes! (I once spent a summer reading The Lord of the Rings, taking notes, cross referencing, investigating other sources… I was very serious about getting it, whatever “it” was!) I’ll try to hold off for awhile – too many other books to read. *sigh*

Has anyone else read Little, Big? What did you think?


  1. I haven’t read it, but based on your review I’m quite intrigued. I kind of love the sense of there being incomprehensible mysteries hidden within a text. Into the queue it goes!

  2. Emily, it’s a really good book! I want to read it again so that I can pick up on more clues, because that’s fun, but I don’t mind if it stays fairly vague. I hope you like it. 🙂

  3. I’m intrigued as well! The varying vagueness you mention might be unbearable in other books, with other writers, but this sounds too good to pass up. Adding to wishlist..

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