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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2000
If, as I was, you were put off by the synopsis of The Chymical Wedding, don't be. Normally I never read a book with the word "obsessive" in the blurb, and for those of you who don't either, I'd like to set the record straight. Lindsay Clarke's The Chymical Wedding is one of the best novels I have ever read. It may contain obessions, dark sides, self-centred fathers and tormented ministers but the mood of the novel is completely at odds with this description. It sits light to life. It's capable of encompassing all the vagaries of human existence in the way that the best nineteenth century novels did (I'm thinking particularly of Middlemarch). It deals with some very dark topics, true, but it's wistful, rather than tormented, and in a way that is very English. Of course it tells a story -- two stories, which are woven together compellingly. The characters in the present have to try to unravel what happened to people in the same place a hundred years ago. (If you liked Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, or are a fan of Penelope Lively, then you'll like this bit.) The Chymical Wedding has some pertinent things to say about the difficulties of being a man (or indeed human) in the late twentieth century. It looks at some aspects of the occult without the credulousness of the New Age movement, and finds them to occupy a very necessary, and long-forgotten place in our culture. They have been neglected to the detriment of our collective mental health. But, best of all, it has an effect at a very deep level. It tugs at you, as life tugs at Alex Darken, makes you sit up and take notice. The whole book is suffused with a greenish, golden light, which will stay with you long after you put it down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Chymical Wedding is everything a reader could wish for from this very talented writer. Historical drama, alchemy, parallel lives and relationships ... a lively collage of fact, fiction and myth!

Protagonist Alex Darken, a poet and teacher finds his life very unsatisfactory, this in turn leads him to take refuge in a rented cottage named `Pigthle', which resides in an out of the way place called Munding, somewhere in the depths of Norwich.

Taking a walk one day, Alex observes Edward (an aging reclusive poet) and his very young girlfriend Laura making love in a forest, and later on meeting Edward at a party held by one of the locals, he becomes embroiled in their obsession of trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding Sir Henry Agnew and his daughter Louisa, who lived in Munding one hundred years earlier and practiced alchemy.

The two stories which are woven together compellingly have some dark undertones, however this book is profoundly moving and will affect you at a deeper level.

Lindsay Clarke writes with a clear, sensual prose and his vivid sense of both the natural world and the modern world makes The Chymical Wedding more than just routine entertainment.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel on all levels and I am sure you will too! A great book for reading groups as the author combines history and tradition extremely passionately in this multi layered story.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2009
This is a wholly captivating piece of work. Whether you are in the slightest knowledgable about alchemy or the Hermetic tradition or not, you'll soon pick plenty up on your journey through this work, and journey it is. It is a work of erudition, often by no means simple and I would advise anyone to keep a dictionary handy since the vocabulary is glorious, rich and to the point, the whole structure of the book being superbly composed, some of it sits on the very thinnest edge of understanding - you don't get to coast through this work. I can quite see why John Fowles said of it that it excited him enormously. It is an exciting book on many levels; it sets you thinking; it reveals how the lead of humanity can be transcended into gold - at a price: do you tell or do you not tell? Is the Hermetic secret exactly what it says, ever to remain a secret? It seems it is - unless you are prepared to go and do a lot more work yourself. Yes, I liked this book a lot. I admire its integrity. I admire the intellectual capacity of its author. I very much admire the way he pieced this together. We have a lot to learn from alchemy and this is not a bad dip into it. Not bad at all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2014
In some ways I feel a bit mean only giving this novel 4 stars. The opening is quite magical, and the cast of characters both convincing and compelling. Clarke is also an author with an astonishing vocabulary, and -thank god- unafraid to use it. My quibble is with the mystery at the centre of the plot. It felt as though none of his characters were really convinced by it, and the author not at all. While the idea that the there is a rationalist explanation underlying everything is perfectly acceptable, for example Stephen Fry's excellent The Hippopotamus, it has to seem believable at least to those involved in it. That said, the novel really ought to be on everyone's read-it-this-year list. A huge pity so few of his books are on kindle.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2008
This book is one of those which you cannot put down because you are constantly on the verge of discovering something and you simply can't postpone reading the next chapter. The complexities of different characters and eras are woven seamlessly together and the reader is drawn into the quest of the 20th century characters, attempting to unravel ancient mysteries. One episode concerning the Minister, is so unexpected that I literally gasped in horror...and yet the novel itself is anything but horrific. It is an enthralling and gripping read, filled with excellent dialogue and wonderful wisdom. Most Beautiful Princess
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on 30 November 2014
In good condition when it arrived. I found the story heavy going at times.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2011
'The Chymical Wedding' is a fascinating, intelligent novel, I really liked it. In 'Bright Dreams and Hard Knocks: A Journal For 1991' - published in the first issue of 'Projections' (1992) - John Boorman reveals that he and Lindsay Clarke wrote a screenplay for 'The Chymical Wedding' but were then, frustratingly, unable to raise the finance for the film. In view of Boorman's interest in Jung, Alchemy and myth, not to mention his stunning cinematic gifts, it seems likely that we've been deprived of a masterpiece.
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on 23 June 2015
Beautiful, captivating book - works on many 'levels'.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 27 November 2009
I really liked the early parts of this book, but ultimately I came away a little disappointed.

The symbolism is ponderous, and Clarke far too often tells rather than shows - we get an increasing number of irksome didactic passages in which one of the characters delivers barely-veiled authorial lectures about the need to harmoniously resolve the contradictions between male and female or similar Deep Thoughts. The characters undergo various painful processes of psychological development and emerge at the end as wiser, better-integrated people; the steps involved in this developmental arc often don't flow terribly naturally from the personalities the author has established for them, and can seem imposed from outside.

I suppose it's not Clarke's fault that the book's alchemical themes have continued to be done to death in the years since it was published. But they were hackneyed even then, and the novel suffers from dwelling too much on them.

There's an interesting story in here but it's almost crushed under the weight of alchemical blather and Hermetic humbug. In the end it smacks of another lengthy, portentous novelistic love-letter to Carl Jung, and in my view if we never get another of those it'll be too soon.

It's a shame, because particularly early on the book has some truly superb descriptive writing, and it intermittently achieves a spooky atmosphere of half-glimpsed symbolism and hidden complexity that reminded me of some of Iris Murdoch's work.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 May 2013
Loved this novel. It's not often I come across a work of fiction that manages to deftly weave an esoteric theme into the narrative. The author does so without compromising the meat of the novel. One of the best books I have read for a long time.
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