Book Review: Little, Big

Little, BigLittle, Big by John Crowley

Like a dream, “Little, Big” is nearly impossible to describe once you’ve awoken from the depths of it. It has that same dream-logic where anything can happen and, in the dream, in that moment, you understand it all. Time, story, and continuity move backwards, forwards, and occasionally sideways, with little explanation–and sometimes little sense–but a deep sense of rightness and beauty.

“Little, Big” is the story of a family and their Tale. The capital “T” is important, for this is not your typical day-in-the-life family story. Rather, it is a Tale that stretches across generations and across reality, interwoven with fairies and fables and mystery. They live in a house that’s bigger on the inside, a house with four front doors, that is simultaneously the gateway to and the epicenter of a new world. At the same time, this is absolutely a family story; husbands and wives, brothers, sisters, cousins, sort-of cousins, children and something like a child, and love.

In keeping with that sense of being in a dream, the pace of the book is, simultaneously, incredibly slow while rushing past you. Events move slowly, but over the reader’s shoulder is the sense that the Tale is running forward, leaping headlong towards the end. It is a book about fairies that never actually encounters any fairies; only their influence is seen or intuited. It is a story about magic without any spells or impressive incantations.

Having said that, it is absolutely not the book for everyone. It’s a dream, without the action of something like “Inception” or “The Matrix,” and without even the whimsical humor of a Ghibli film. The pacing is glacially slow in places, and the plot is never fully explained. Much of it must be pieced together, flipping back and forth through the text as you begin to understand the fullness of the Tale. Secure in the knowledge that they are part of a tale, some of the characters neglect to take action in their own lives. Events that one would expect to have real consequences are sometimes brushed aside or glossed over. But that’s how things work in a dream, isn’t it?

A lush, lyrical read. Perfect if your summer includes a hammock and a glass of lemonade, with time to fall into a dream.

View all my reviews at Goodreads

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