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Little, Big

by John Crowley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,0951132,752 (4.01)3 / 268
"Little, Big" tells the epic story of Smoky Barnable -- an anonymous young man who meets and falls in love with Daily Alice Drinkwater, and goes to live with her in Edgewood, a place not found on any map. In an impossible mansion full of her relatives, who all seem to have ties to another world not far away, Smoky fathers a family and tries to learn what tale he has found himself in -- and how it is to end.… (more)
Recently added byNightshelf, private library, Johanne, cns1000, lschiff, IsraOverZero, turnerd, glassglassmadeof, ambyrglow
Legacy LibrariesTerence Kemp McKenna
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    kethorn23: The fairies in both these books operate behind the scenes, which preserves the sense of magic. The fairies in Little, Big are elusive even while they play a major role in the story. Likewise, in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the fairies are responsible for major parts of the story that affect the humans who are unaware of their existence.… (more)
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    Marissa_Doyle: Winter's Tale is perhaps a little more muscular, but they both share a certain dreamy whimsicality that never descends into cuteness.
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    fduwald: Hier ist der Ursprung von Edgewood.
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(see all 21 recommendations)


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Group TopicMessagesLast Message 
 Fine Press Forum: Little, Big 25th Anniversary Edition97 unread / 97anglemark, August 16
 Hogwarts Express: Little, Big25 unread / 25sisterphonetica, April 2013
 Name that Book: Fantasy Novel6 unread / 6infiniteletters, October 2010

» See also 268 mentions

English (111)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (113)
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
It took me forever to get through this book. It has sleep dust embedded throughout its pages, and apparently they’ve invented a release mechanism that works even with e-books. Seriously, I don’t think there was a single session where I sat down to read this book during the day and didn’t fall asleep at some point before standing back up, and I rarely take mid-day naps. Likewise, when I read it before bed, I usually ended up going to sleep earlier than I normally would. So… I guess that’s the main thing I got out of this book. I’m now very well rested?

The story revolves around a large and very convoluted family, most of whom live in or around a large and very convoluted house in the middle of nowhere. There's some overlap with the fairy realm there, so that some family members are able to see them, although others can’t, and most lose the ability as they get older.

My Kindle edition had a family tree – at the very end of the book, with no reference to it in the table of contents that might have clued me in to its existence. By the time I saw it, it was too late to do me much good. The most critical people were pretty easy to keep track of though, and since I was reading on the Kindle I was able to search and find prior references if I forgot who someone was, so I did ok without the tree. In the earlier parts of the book, it jumps back and forth in the timeline quite a bit and introduces a large number of characters, but this wasn’t the part I disliked. It felt a little confusing at times, but I was able to follow it and the setting seemed really interesting, so I’d looked forward to learning where everything was going.

The further I got into the book, the less I liked it. The timeline got more linear and the character focus narrowed, but the story became more nebulous. It became more metaphorical and less logical, and there were long sequences where the author wrote about things happening to characters, except that apparently those things weren’t actually happening, or at least not in the way the characters thought they were, to the point that sometimes I was confused about what was “real” in the context of the book and what wasn’t. And then you have people becoming fish, birds, and trees? It probably didn’t help that, by this point, I was in a perpetually sleepy haze myself whenever I read the book. Reading this made me feel like what I imagine it would feel like to be on drugs, and I’ve never enjoyed books that give me that sensation.

The writing style is more literary I guess, with some odd ways of phrasing things that occasionally required me to re-read a sentence. I wouldn’t call this a funny book, but there were times it made me burst out in surprised laughter because something unexpectedly struck me funny, even toward the end when I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. Sometimes I wasn’t even sure if the things that made me laugh were supposed to be funny. It’s possible I might have been delirious. The ending was as unsatisfying as I expected it to be by the time I finally reached it. This book I think is more about style and atmosphere, but the story itself lacked enough substance for me to sink my teeth into.

I’m rating this at 2.5 stars and rounding down to 2 because I think I would have preferred less sleep. ( )
  YouKneeK | Sep 9, 2023 |
If this book had been broken down into a series of novellas, I would have loved almost half of them

There are some magnificently beautiful stories in this book, and I really wanted to love it. There are just as many that I found very boring and charmless. If I enjoy a book enough, a messy ending is generally forgiven. But here, 80 pages from the end my feelings toward this novel were still evenly split love/hate, and then things went downhill for the remainder.

Loose ends, plot-holes, purposeless characters taking up chapter after chapter in an already long tale, and suprisingly little magic for a book about fairies and enchantments.

Still, read it for the good bits. ( )
  Littlecatbird | Jul 7, 2023 |
I honestly didn't know how this book would end. I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped, it seemed to drag on and some of the writing came across as awkward to me. ( )
  ezmerelda | Mar 8, 2023 |
"Style over substance" is widely understood to be a criticism, yet some artists can chisel out a style so precisely that it becomes substance itself. Crowley approaches this in the best parts of Little, Big—here's someone who can write about a child yawning for the first time in a way that leaves me wide-eyed until it dawns on me what it is that's being described. However, I'm unable to comment on whether the zigzagging plot coalesces into anything coherent by the end. The style alone propelled me about 75% of the way through the whole book. But then I gave up and just felt annoyed I'd even gone that far. I found the relationship that the novel opened with charming and maturely written. I could deal with their story fading to the background as the generations proceed, but once the spotlight is on Auberon and Sylvie, I just couldn't stomach another paragraph about her panties or magical brown Puerto Rican skin. Then he hits us with Auberon letting her sleep with other guys "as long as, when you're with me, you're with me" and look, I could happily read a story about this kind of dynamic, but what's here is a single paragraph that serves no purpose except to say "look how progressive my story is." Now, not only am I being turned off by sections Crowley is writing like he has all the faith in the world are going to turn me on, I'm comparing Crowley to the kind of dude that would write a poem about how feminist he is so he can go wink at the girls at his reading of it. Too self-congratulatory without being natural enough to seem authentic. So, I go to Wikipedia to check out the other accolades Little, Big has received besides Harold Bloom's, and the next one I see is from this guy. His website background looks like this and the quoted review says: ""Victoria" follows Cosmo Cowperhwait the inventor of a human-amphibian hybrid that bares an uncanny resemblance to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, as well as an insatiable sexual appetite..." This is one of those cases where I wouldn't even have cared about the flaws if its best moments hadn't held so much promise. So now I walk away thinking, here's someone who writes about sex less compellingly than they can write about a literal yawn.

I note that the only other person who has mentioned the word "sex" on this Librarything page said: "In high contrast to the incomprehensible nature of most of the "action" and relationships were the embarrassing and obvious tropes in the latter half: the oversexed Latina, POC described as food-colored, the manic pixie girl who teaches the young man to live by leaving him." In contrast to that reviewer, I loved the abstract quality of the rest of the work, and the vocabulary, but that stuff still completely put me off of it. ( )
  thecrackstreetboys | Jan 29, 2023 |
I rarely read fantasy, wait I never do. So I read this book anyway. Not altogether my cup of tea, yet it was not all bad either for me. A complex winding plot with many characters, some of which I struggled to piece in and remember their purpose in the plot.

No doubt Crowley is an excellent wordsmith with a fantastical mind, no no criticism there. For fans of the fantasy genre this certainly would entice them. For myself I am satisfied to say I read it and gained a bit from the experience, now back to non-fiction. ( )
  knightlight777 | Jul 4, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
This August marked the 40th anniversary of the release of John Crowley’s fantasy masterpiece Little, Big (1981). ... Crowley had already published three remarkable novels—The Deep (1975), Beast (1976) and Engine Summer (1979)—which established him as an exciting author unafraid to bring both beautifully crafted prose and highly original ideas to his own peculiar mix of science fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy. However Little, Big would eclipse them all.
added by elenchus | editTor.com, Jonathan Thornton (Nov 3, 2021)

» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Crowleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bloom, HaroldAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Canty, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carr, RichardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, John AnsterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, YvonneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lippincott, Gary A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malczynski, ElizabethCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Milton, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A little later, remembering man's earthly origin, 'dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return,' they liked to fancy themselves bubbles of earth. When alone in the fields, with no one to see them, they would hop, skip and jump, touching the ground as lightly as possible and crying 'We are the bubbles of earth! Bubbles of earth! Bubbles of earth!'
- Flora Thompson,
Lark Rise
For Lynda
who first knew it
with the author's love
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On a certain day in June, 19--, a young man was making his way on foot northward from the great City to a town or place called Edgewood, that he had been told of but had never visited.
The things that make us happy make us wise.
There was after all no mystery in the end of love, no mystery but the mystery of love itself, which was large certainly but as real as grass, as natural and unaccountable as bloom and branch and their growth.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Little, Big" tells the epic story of Smoky Barnable -- an anonymous young man who meets and falls in love with Daily Alice Drinkwater, and goes to live with her in Edgewood, a place not found on any map. In an impossible mansion full of her relatives, who all seem to have ties to another world not far away, Smoky fathers a family and tries to learn what tale he has found himself in -- and how it is to end.

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