I read this book because of a friend’s strong recommendation. Its genre is magical realism, not one I’m strong on.
In its little sense, Little, Big is the story of a family that has a curious, vague mission. They live in a strange house that is many houses combined on a property to the north of the City. The house is the gateway, they believe, to . . . something. The family are part of the Tale.
Although we get a summary of the lives of some of Violet Drinkwater’s forebears, the story gets going with Smoky Barnable, who meets Daily Alice Drinkwater through her cousin, George Mouse. After Smoky and Daily Alice decide to marry, Smoky must walk to her home and follow some other rituals for the wedding, which is part of the Tale.
Smoky doesn’t ever understand what’s going on, and neither, really, do we. And frankly, nothing much does go on for a long time, although everything is beautifully and minutely described. Children are born, a couple whose parentage is confused. Fairies may or may not exist, but one child is certainly substituted for another. Sophie, Violet’s sister, sleeps for years and then can’t sleep for years. One character has almost certainly been turned into a fish.
This description makes the book sound ridiculous, but it is not. It is for readers who want to take time with a book. It is beautifully written and playful with language. It is also slow building with a carefully constructed plot that everything builds up to. I think it goes a little astray with a political plot in the middle, and how much it pays off for you depends, I think, on how much you put into it. I scented distinct religious overtones at the end, but perhaps others won’t see it that way.