If you're the kind of reader who likes to open the door to the secret garden, walk inside and enter a completely different world from any you've ever been in before, and stay in there, amazed and enthralled, for days on end, The Quincunx
is definitely a don't-miss book for you. Everyone compares this novel to one by Dickens, pointing out how alike they are, and for the most part I agree: the time period, the attention to detail, the main characters whose complexity features old-fashioned elements like good and bad--it's all there. Even Palliser's prose strives for a Victorian style, and succeeds amazingly well, which is a big part of why the book sucks you in so completely. As for the narrative momentum---important in so long a book---well, there's so much going on, so many layered stories and labyrinthine entanglements, that the ultimate premise, the Quincunx itself, is a minor player. Nonetheless, it's a fun one, and I found that it sustained energy for reading the book, even when I was getting kinda bummed out by some (but not all) of the other stories. (In answer to other PBS reviewers who say this book is too depressing: I disagree. It is
, at times, tinged deeply with melancholy, but what life, what story set in the Victorian period, has no melancholy?) And the novel is sort of
a puzzle mystery, not a verbal or mental one, but a tangible puzzle in the shape of a quincunx (see attached compilation of definitions). Puzzles can lend a lighter touch, a more sanguine mood, to the most intense of family interactions. And this puzzle has real, tangible keys, the locations of which are part of the story. Will the Quincunx puzzle be solved, its secrets unlocked? You only have 781 pages to find out. :-)
has ample maps, family trees, and diagrams-such as at least one diagram showing how the five parts of the Quincunx map onto significant entities (I won't tell you which ones) that appear in the of the story. Don't you love novels with maps and diagrams? I sure do.
I'm appending here, for your entertainment and edification, some miscellaneous material on the word quincunx
/ˈkwɪŋkʌŋks, ˈkwɪn-/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [kwing-kuhngks, kwin-]
1. an arrangement of five objects, as trees, in a square or rectangle, one at each corner and one in the middle.
2. Botany. an overlapping arrangement of five petals or leaves, in which two are interior, two are exterior, and one is partly interior and partly exterior.
1640-50; < L: five twelfths (quinc-, var. of quīnque- quinque- + uncia twelfth; see ounce 1 ); orig. a Roman coin worth five twelfths of an as and marked with a quincunx of spots
Based on the Random House Dictionary, (c) Random House, Inc. 2009.
n. An arrangement of five objects with one at each corner of a rectangle or square and one at the center.
[Latin quīncūnx, quīncūnc-, five twelfths : quīnque, five; see penkwe in Indo-European roots + ūncia, twelfth part of a unit; see ounce1.]
The American Heritage (R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright (c)\ 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Quin"cunx\, n. [L., fr. quinque five + uncia an ounce. The quincunx was marked by five small spots or balls. See Five, and Ounce the weight.]
1. An arrangement of things by fives in a square or a rectangle, one being placed at each corner and one in the middle; especially, such an arrangement of trees repeated indefinitely, so as to form a regular group with rows running in various directions.
2. (Astrol.) The position of planets when distant from each other five signs, or 150[deg]. --Hutton.
3. (Bot.) A quincuncial arrangement, as of the parts of a flower in [ae]stivation. See Quincuncial, 2.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, (C) 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.
1647, originally astrological, of planetary alignments, from L., lit. "five ounces," from quinque "five" + uncia "ounce, a twelfth part," related to unus "one." Applied, especially in garden design, to arrangements like the five pips on a playing card (1664).
Online Etymology Dictionary, (C) 2001 Douglas Harper
(which has a bunch of yummy stuff,
but sorry, this book isn't there anymore)