Book: Little, Big

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Little, Big

Author: John Crowley
Publisher: Harper Perennial

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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John Crowley’s Little, Big, winner of a 1982 World Fantasy Award, is one of the authentic masterpieces of modern imaginative literature. Painstakingly composed and elegantly structured, it is the sort of book that defies categorization yet lodges permanently in the memories of readers fortunate enough to encounter it. It had been unaccountably out of print for several years, but is again available in paperback.

Little, Big tells the story of Smoky Barnable, an anonymous young man from The City who marries Daily Alice Drinkwater, oldest daughter of a family which has a long-standing relationship with an ancient, powerful, and elusive race of fairies. Reaching backward to the early years of that relationship and extending outward into a bleak and inhospitable future, the novel chronicles the efforts of several generations of Drinkwaters to come to terms with their peculiar circumstances and to understand their role in the ongoing Story, which dominates and encompasses them all.

The beauty of the book lies in the elegance of its language, and in the precision with which the quotidian details of the characters’ lives are played out against the slowly unfolding backdrop of their magical and mysterious destiny. Dense, complex, and richly allusive, Little, Big is not a book for the lazy or casual reader, but is, rather, one that demands and repays the closest attention. It remains, even after multiple readings, as vital, intricate, and interesting as the world, or worlds, it brings so vividly to life. —Bill Sheehan

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