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The Limits of Enchantment: A Novel (GOLLANCZ S.F.) Hardcover – 20 Jan 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; First Edition edition (20 Jan. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575072318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575072312
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.7 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,070,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


Some wonderful social comedy as well as a sense of potential betrayal. He is a writer fascinated by his factual material, and by characters who would not be the same without it. (Roz Kaveney The Independent)

Intricate, involving.. Joyce has produced a wonderful portrait of England. This remarkable novel should scoop Joyce out of the dusty corners of bookshops and introduce his work to a much wider readership. (Josh Lacey The Guardian)

Joyce unfolds a beguiling story of witchraft with the kind of confidence and skill that comes from depth of experience. A very fine, very subtle novel. (SFX)

Joyce is one of our great novelists, one of the treasures of our time (Rick Kleffel Trashotron)

Joyce's ear for dialect and his loving recreation of an almost forgotten world enable him to transcend genre. A sly comedy of manners with magical flavourings. (Lorne Jackson The Sunday Mercury)

Mystery and possibly magic aside, this is a quiet tale of a journey into womanhood and of bucolic England during a period of change. (Simon Baker TLS)

As solid, balanced, and finely tuned as anything Joyce has written, and that is tantamount to saying it's about as finely tuned as any recent fiction we have. (Gary K Wolfe LOCUS)

Joyce weaves a vibrant, skilfull portrait of both worlds, peopled with credible and fascinating characters so convincing you'd believe he'd lived through it. The book is gripping, and the writing from this one-man genre astonisingly accomplished. It will live with you long after you grudgingly turn that final page. Graham Joyce is a magnificent writer. A national treasure. (Rob Grant Dreamwatch)

Book Description

The best novel yet from a World Fantasy Award and four time British Fantasy Award winning author.

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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Fern Cullen, the story's narrator, Graham Joyce has found a heartwarming and realistic voice. The story is about Fern and her adoptive "Mammy" who live on the outskirts of a village in the 1960's. They are slightly outside of society because they practise the old arts of hedgerow medicine. The pair have in many ways been left behind by time but they are largely left in peace by the villagers until one of Mammy's potions goes fatally wrong. Joyce's descriptions of Mammy's herbal concoctions and their uses are well researched and believable. Fern battles with her own doubts about the magic they perform. When Mammy is taken ill, Fern is thrust into the real world of 1960's Britain. In some ways she is very innocent in the ways of the world and yet this is in contrast to the ways of the sage which she has learned from Mammy.

As a reader you warm to the plight of Fern but Joyce does not let the character or his readers down with this fine book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A bellarmine jar of witchery-pokery, this was a pleasant surprise. Joyce has been on my radar for a while, but I've only got around to reading one of his award-winning oeuvre. This is an enchanting tale of village witchcraft - set in an amusingly prosaic paradigm - fear and midwifery in the East Midlands. The novelist's genius is that he both manages to deconstruct and re-enchant 'the Craft' - hedging his bets with psychological realism and intriguing 'moments' of mystery. Setting it in the Sixties (an iconic and iconoclastic time of pop culture magic) enhances the effect - a sense one could still capture the last glimmers of a fading way of life - an evanescence like a slow sunset of dirty fire. Joyce has a deceptively 'light' style which makes for an easy, amusing read. He is a master of his art - creating complex, distinctive characters, crisp dialogue, a cunning plot, and a real magic rarely found in 'Fantasy' books. This is a book with mud on its boots and dirt under its fingernails - combining the earthiness of this authentic microcosm with miniskirts, trippy hippies, small-minded provincial life, and obscure local customs, this makes for a charming read.
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I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading this novel, fairytale or village gossip I thought? It is the story of family, old traditions and a coming of age for Fern, adoptive daughter to Mammy, the " wise woman" of a rural community in the 1960's. Not wanting to add any spoilers as other reviewers have done justice to this story I would just like to say how much I enjoyed it. For me, the initial attraction was Mammy as I myself was raised by my granny who practised the art of hedgerow medicine and was herself an Irish gypsy traveller so I was keen to see how this compared. It was quite wonderful, very moving in parts and enlightening for me to see other perspectives on this situation and how others reacted to this pair. Mr Joyce has obviously done his homework as I could relate to so many things within this story; the wariness of the villagers who come into contact with Mammy, their isolation and particularly the difficulties and sometimes lonliness which Fern feels being associated with her Mammy. I too was raised in the 60's and this is so acurate in its portrail of the inhabitants and their old fashioned beliefs. Its an unusual tale but so well done by this talented author it lead me to read other works he has written and I recently finished Some Kind of Fairytale which was superb so I would say, if you are unsure, give this a try, you might surprise yourself and learn something of the old arts along the way, fabulous!!
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By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
Set in the mid 1960s, this book also harks back to English paganism and the age-old history of witchcraft. In the rural backwater where Fern lives with Mammy, who is not her birth-mother but with whom she has a great bond, the community is about to be invaded by a colony of hippies, who bring their dissolute life-style with them and divide the opinions of local gentry and villagers alike. There is trouble afoot from the moment Mammy is forced into hospital, leaving Fern vulnerable, not just to the hippies, but to the semi-hostile intent of almost everyone else. Mammy is an (unregistered) midwife and a known procurer of abortions for unlucky girls who have been `caught'. She is also a kind of pagan witch, who has knowledge of white magic. And Fern knows most of her secrets.

The mystical moments in this novel are handled with faultless assurance and delicacy and Fern, the narrator throughout, is honest about both her unwillingness to believe in her legacy, and the events that lead her into a kind of belief. Vulnerable and powerful, both, she has to find a way to compromise with the world around her, which she does - in the end. But there are dangers and antagonisms to be overcome first.

Effortlessly straddling both ancient and modern belief systems, Joyce's book is a total delight. A hypnotic read from the first page to the last.
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Format: Paperback
Fern has been raised by the village midwife, Mammy, assisting at births since her early teens and catching glimpses of Mammy's magic as she prepares folk remedies for those who don't quite trust the NHS. But when a young girl who has visited Mammy for help dies soon afterwards, scandal and gossip runs rife in the village, and Mammy's own health goes into rapid decline. Fern is left to cope with her grief over Mammy, the prospect of eviction, and the discovery of her own gifts and calling; but who can she trust to help her through?

Although it sounds trite in synopsis, 'The Limits of Enchantment' is surprisingly engaging and thought-provoking in the telling. The style is easy to read but the characters are complex and wholly believable, and there are no easy answers to the questions posed. Set in the 60s, old-school superstition is pitched against advancing scientific knowledge and shifting social norms so that Fern's coming of age is reflected as the coming of age of an era. And while it is a story technically about witchcraft, it is as much about the reading of people and situations as anything supernatural. Nonetheless, the story is magical.

I first read this story some years ago and wanted to see if it stood the test of time. At first I was afraid I had stumbled into an ordinary, vacuous village tale, but my only disappointment turned out to be reaching the end. Despite a lightweight facade, Joyce proves that simplicity can indeed be deceptive.
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