Book Reviews of The Quincunx

The Quincunx
The Quincunx
Author: Charles Palliser
The Market's bargain prices are even better for Paperbackswap club members!
Retail Price: $21.00
Buy New (Paperback): $15.39 (save 26%) or
Become a PBS member and pay $11.49+1 PBS book credit (save 45%)
ISBN-13: 9780345371133
ISBN-10: 0345371135
Publication Date: 11/27/1990
Pages: 800
Rating:
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 36

3.7 stars, based on 36 ratings
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

8 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Quincunx on + 32 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
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. :-)

---------------------------------------


The Quincunx 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:

quin⋅cunx
   /ˈkwɪŋkʌŋks, ˈkwɪn-/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [kwing-kuhngks, kwin-]
--noun
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.
Origin:
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
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, (c) Random House, Inc. 2009.


quin cunx (kwĭn'kŭngks')
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.


Quincunx
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.


quincunx
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


--Fiona Webster

My Bookshelf
(which has a bunch of yummy stuff,
but sorry, this book isn't there anymore)
reviewed The Quincunx on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I wasn't able to finish reading this behemoth of a book! I love a good Victorian tale but this one was way too long and tedious. The main character seems to always be at the mercy of some conspiracy, bad luck or mere circumstance - it was all just so unbelievable. After the first 600 pages I gave up on finding an actual point to all his suffering and misery and nothing short of the end of the world would make me pick this book back up and finish it!
reviewed The Quincunx on + 18 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
First novelist Palliser combines an eye for social detail and vivid descriptions of the dark side of 19th-century London with a gift for intricate plotting and sinister character development reminiscent of 19th-century novels. He weaves a complicated tale of a codacil containing a crucial entail, the possible existence of a second will, and a multiplicity of characters--all mysteriously related--seeking to establish their claims to a vast and ancient estate. Related by a young boy who often appears too worldly for his sheltered upbringing and wise beyond his years, the story occasionally bogs down in innuendo and detail which become tedious rather than suspenseful. Nevertheless, overall, this is a gripping novel. Highly recommended.
reviewed The Quincunx on + 25 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This is a fantastic, labyrinthine, Victorian read, at times a romp and at others a meditation. The intertwining motivations and stories of these characters is riveting.
reviewed The Quincunx on + 3389 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A brilliant and entertaining pastiche of the mid 19th century novel .. An epic quest for wealth and vengeance, the key to which lies in a complicated Chancery lawsuit and a missing codicil..Its appeal is that of a tremendous intellectual puzzle.
The Quincumx grips like steel...it's a book to make you miss you stop on the bus or the train, keep you up at night and wake you early...a formidable achievement.
reviewed The Quincunx on + 534 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
First novelist Palliser combines an eye for social detail and vivid descriptions of the dark side of 19th-century London with a gift for intricate plotting and sinister character development reminiscent of 19th-century novels. He weaves a complicated tale of a codacil containing a crucial entail, the possible existence of a second will, and a multiplicity of characters--all mysteriously related--seeking to establish their claims to a vast and ancient estate. Related by a young boy who often appears too worldly for his sheltered upbringing and wise beyond his years, the story occasionally bogs down in innuendo and detail which become tedious rather than suspenseful. Nevertheless, overall, this is a gripping novel. Highly recommended. Literary Guild dual main selection.
LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW
reviewed The Quincunx on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Not badly written, just very depressing - got about 1/3rd of the way through.
reviewed The Quincunx on + 1130 more book reviews
It's telling that the word "labyrinthine" turns up in many reviews for this book. This is an incredibly atmospheric and intricate story with a huge cast of characters, and is written in prose that would make Dickens proud.

It's also a book that I simply couldn't make myself finish. Maybe I used up my quota of patience and endurance reading Bleak House, but I just couldn't sit still for this one, and gave up.