Little, Big by John Crowley is a brilliant, complex, perplexing paradox of a book. It’s deeply serious and yet utterly evanescent: a sophisticated, moving adult novel about fairyland. I first came across it on the recommendation of a very well-read friend, and I fell hard for it within the first few pages. The moment I want to shout about here is the one that first prompted this headlong topple.
So, some background: the novel is that rare and old-fashioned thing, a family saga. The Drinkwaters are an American family whose home, Edgewood, is a many-faced, labyrinthine, Beaux Arts country pile, not too distant from an unnamed city that is clearly New York. Yet the Drinkwaters are special, and what makes them special is that they’re related (by marriage) to fairies. Their family history, at diverse and unpredictable points, is implicated in “the Tale”—a longstanding fairy narrative that unfolds in a rhythm too slow, too magical, for human comprehension.