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Quincunx

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
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(13)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Wilkie Collins Lives On.

With more than a passing nod to Dickens and Collins, Palliser has written a fabulous pastiche of the Victorian Mystery Novel, pioneered by the above. Add to that all the degredation of 19th Century London, tricksters, prostitutes, body snatchers et al, this book has eve...
With more than a passing nod to Dickens and Collins, Palliser has written a fabulous pastiche of the Victorian Mystery Novel, pioneered by the above. Add to that all the degredation of 19th Century London, tricksters, prostitutes, body snatchers et al, this book has everything.

posted by Anonymous on August 5, 2002

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Good writing but a swamp of misery

This hefty volume is a real page-turner--I was glued to it for about 4 days--as well as being an extraordinary tour de force. The plot is an intricate and far-flung labyrinth with unexpected twists at every turn. If you like to savor puzzles, this is a great one. It's p...
This hefty volume is a real page-turner--I was glued to it for about 4 days--as well as being an extraordinary tour de force. The plot is an intricate and far-flung labyrinth with unexpected twists at every turn. If you like to savor puzzles, this is a great one. It's patterned on a Victorian novel, and its scrupulously accurate descriptions of the wretched underside of Victorian society are extraordinarily vivid. Like a Dickens novel, it's populated with striking characters from all walks of life, especially the underclass. And the writing is very good. But there was one aspect that put a damper on my enjoyment and stood out as a striking anachronism for a book aspiring to Victorian novelhood. The chapters have the kind of bouncy, chirpy period titles like those I remember from the cheerful books of my youth like Little Women and they led me to expect a certain Victorian-style heartiness in the tone of the story. However, except for the first section, the rest of the novel is a story of sheer unrelieved misery, evil, and hopelessness. The author seems to have bent over backwards to systematically demolish every prospect of help or escape and eradicate any possibility of lasting happiness or hope, no matter how small. Even Dickens' grimmest novels offer comic relief, and they usually offer a ray of hope or a chance of happiness at the end for some decent character or other as well. Victorian writers lived in an optimistic era, and in the books I'm familiar with, glimmers of that optimism are generally evident in their work. (Villette is a striking exception, for those who like gloom.) It's not that I prefer saccharin endings, but in my view, the relentless blackness of the Quincunx's worldview reflects more of the sardonic mindset of a'90's novelist than it does a Victorian one. Whether this is supposed to make it more 'realistic' to match the taste of contemporary readers, I don't know, but I don't think that's necessarily achieved by taking the opposite extreme in an effort to flee conventional happy endings. In any event, the novel's inexorable woefulness wore me down after a while. In the end, it left me feeling unusually depressed and also a little like I'd been had. I thought I was reading a novel that was supposed to be faithful to the spirit as well as the form of a 19th century novel, but at the end I discovered that it was actually a bit of turn-of-the-millenium nihilism tricked out in elaborate Victorian duds.

posted by Anonymous on August 15, 2002

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2003

    Big read

    A daunting book to begin and required patience for the first 200 pages but well worth the time and effort. Unimaginable twists and turns. Excellent read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2001

    Impressive but difficult

    Overall this is an admirable work. The depth of historical detail is impressive and the writing is masterful. However, while the twists and turns of the plot keep you reading, the relationships of the characters, which are essential to the plot, are very difficult to keep straight even with the addition of the family tree charts that have been included. The other difficulty with the book is that the misery and cruelty described feels all too real and after the first part of the story there is very little relief from it for at least the next 400 pages.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted June 7, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2009

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