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Magnificence: A Novel Hardcover – November 5, 2012


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My Struggle: Book Four
Eighteen-year-old Karl Ove moves to a tiny fishing village in the Arctic Circle to work as a school teacher. As the nights get longer, the shadow cast by his father's own sharply increasing alcohol consumption, also gets longer. Read the full description
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (November 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081701
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Millet brings her searching, bitterly funny, ecologically attuned trilogy of Los Angeles–based novels (How the Dead Dream, 2008; Ghost Lights, 2011) to a haunting crescendo. This tale of loss and realignment homes in on Susan at the end of a tragic chain of events involving her adult daughter, Casey, ending up in a wheelchair; her boss T.’s disappearance and return; and her husband’s death. Susan struggles with grief and guilt and marvels at the ceaseless, atomic whirl of life and the persistence of the past. She is also astringently hilarious on the subject of men and her life as a secret slut. Millet creates a brilliant deus ex machina when her spiky protagonist unexpectedly inherits a vast mansion in Pasadena that is filled with hundreds of stuffed and mounted animals from all around the world. Susan is transformed by her new life as caretaker for this private natural history museum, this library of the dead, which becomes an unlikely haven for T.’s dementia-afflicted mother and others in need of succor and companionship. Millet is extraordinarily agile and powerful here, moving from light to shadow like a stalking lioness as Susan’s strange stewardship casts light on extinction and preservation, how we care for others and seek or hide truth, and crimes both intimate and planetary. --Donna Seaman

Review

“[Magnificence is] elegant, darkly comic…with overtones variously of Muriel Spark, Edward Gorey and J. G. Ballard, full of contemporary wit and devilish fateful turns for her characters, and then also to knit together into a tapestry of vast implication and ethical urgency, something as large as any writer could attempt: a kind of allegorical elegy for life on a dying planet. Ours, that is.” (Jonathan Lethem - The Guardian)

“Lydia Millet's Magnificence is a novel of ideas. I mean that as a high compliment, for the ideas Millet invokes are the only ones that matter: life, death, love, longing, extinction, the ongoing existential quandary of what we are doing here.... [A]n ambitious book, not so much for the sweep of its action, which is essentially domestic, but for its deep and nuanced investigation of inner life....” (David Ulin - Los Angeles Times)

“Millet’s prose, which is both sensitive and strange... creates a thick atmosphere that immediately pulls the reader deep into this saga of love, death, sex, and taxidermy.” (NewYorker.com)

“...[W]arm, moving, funny, earnest, hopeful, honest, and engaged in a way at odds with current literary fashion…Millet’s lush prose has you in her thrall from the start.” (Jenny Hendrix - Boston Globe)

“...[U]unnervingly talented Lydia Millet completes a trilogy... each stands independently; you can read just one of them if you please. But you won't want to, any more than you'd want to leave Chez Panisse after the appetizer.... There is something of Paula Fox in the way Millet provokes deep thinking without being overbearing. But I hate to compare Millet to anyone; she's truly an original.” (Mary Pols - San Francisco Chronicle)

“Millet is simply an incredible writer. Her prose displays the exceedingly rare combination of philosophical introspection with poetic grace and flourish.” (Nicholas Mancusi - Daily Beast)

“[A] novel of ideas or philosophy, disguised as a portrait of one woman’s midlife upheaval.” (Laura Miller - Salon)

“Millet's writing is as lush as the house Susan lives in. There's a marvelous musicality to her prose; she's a writer who tackles human emotions with scientific precision and an artist's voice…. There's a cataloging going on here of the ways that people navigate the world once their world has shifted; Millet does a fine job of breathing life into people who are surrounded by dead things.” (Michele Filgate - Minnesota Star Tribune)

“Starred review. [An] elegant meditation on death and what it means to be alone, even you’re not…  A dazzling prose stylist, Millet elevates her story[,] …exploring grief and love as though they were animals to be stuffed, burrowing in deep and scooping out the innermost layers.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Starred review. Millet brings her searching, bitterly funny, ecologically attuned trilogy of Los Angeles–based novels (How the Dead Dream, 2008; Ghost Lights, 2011) to a haunting crescendo. ...Millet is extraordinarily agile and powerful here, moving from light to shadow like a stalking lioness....” (Booklist)

“... draws a detailed map of the healing process of an adulterous wife who suddenly finds herself a widow…. The deeply honest, beautiful meditations on love, grief and guilt give way to a curlicued comic-romantic mystery complete with a secret basement and assorted eccentrics.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“There’s much to explore in Magnificence, which is ambitious, often funny and deliciously provocative. One needn’t have read the entire series to be consumed by its pleasures, but by the time you reach its beautiful end, considerable comfort lies in the existence of two more novels in which to delight in Millet’s writing and imagination.” (Christine Thomas - Miami Herald)

“Starred review. [A] refreshingly buoyant and unsentimental tale…Millet’s spare but powerful prose…calls to mind the work of J. M. Coetzee.” (Jeff Ayres - Library Journal)

Customer Reviews

Gave this reader much to think about, in terms of relationships.
Ludmila Leong
She is a perceptive and funny social critic with a distinctive satirical voice and a precise and masterful eye for detail.
Evie Getchell
It felt like more of a chore than it should have, and I found the plot both dull and somewhat pointless.
Nimily

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Evie Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I absolutely love reading Lydia Millet! Her fiction brings to me an intimate gift of truth...an intimate gift of transparency that allows me resonance with her characters so that I experience their imagined reality as keenly as I experience my own.

Magnificence: A Novel is her latest gift to me, and yes, I consider it a personal gift. Why? Because once I, like Susan the heroine of this tale, was widowed unexpectedly.

But that is not to say that I necessarily related to Susan's individual circumstances in this novel, for her story is a unique and twisted continuation of the themes of Millet's two previous novels. But what I did identify with in Susan are her meditations on the death of a spouse, on the undying love that keeps us connected to our departed beloved, on the guilt that bubbles up when we are certain (if only in our own mind) that we are to blame for that death, and on the aloneness that is underlaid by our soul-numbing grief and our deepest sense of emptiness.

But Lydia Millet gives us so much more with MAGNIFICENCE. She is a perceptive and funny social critic with a distinctive satirical voice and a precise and masterful eye for detail. With sensitivity and empathy yet non-judgmental authorial distance, Millet allows her characters to narrate the story of themselves and to build on the familiar themes that she has conceived and so flawlessly woven into many of her stories...themes such as damaged life forms, evolution and extinction; marriage, children and parenthood; love, loss and loneliness; aging, preservation of life and death; personal discovery, the state of wonderment and self awareness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By My2Cents VINE VOICE on May 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I struggled with coming up with a cohesive review for this novel, as my thoughts about this one seemed scattered. Did I like the novel? Yes, but I had issues with it as well.

Magnificence begins as the novel's protagonist, Susan Lindley, and her daughter Casey head out to the airport to pick up husband/father Hal. Hal has been in Belize looking for Susan's boss, T, a real estate developer, who has gone missing. Little do either women realized but Hal is dead, the victim of a mugging turned violent. Why he is in South America, and why Susan is feeling guilty was a mystery to me, but as I read on I realized that this, is in fact, the third book in a trilogy: How the Dead Dream, Ghost Lights and now Magnificence. Although it has been stated that this novel can stand alone, I tend to disagree. I'm pretty sure I would have enjoyed it more if I knew the entire story of Susan, Hal , (now deceased), and Casey, (now a paraplegic), and why Susan blames herself for Hal's death.

Once Susan realizes what has happened to Hal, she is beside herself with guilt. She decides to sell their home and start fresh by moving to the beach. Just as this happens, she learns that she has inherited an estate in Pasadena, CA, from an eccentric uncle that Susan hardly knew. Once Susan gets inside of this weird old mansion, things get creepy. The house is full with exotic wildlife from all parts of the world that her uncle has hunted and had stuffed. Deer, bear, eagles, hawks, leopards and other creatures fill the rooms of the mansion; the place is certainly bizarre. The floor that Susan chooses to live on has 8 bedrooms each with a geographic letter theme on the door: The Rainforest, The Arctic, The Himalayas etc. This was also a part of the novel I loved as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charles R. De Haven on March 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
an story with unexpected turns and twists, but not too tricky. I like it and it read well. I will look for my Lydia Millet novels because of this book
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Format: Hardcover
Lydia Millet's strange and lovely new novel, MAGNIFICENCE, opens as Susan, a middle-aged former teacher, and her daughter Casey arrive at the airport to meet Susan's husband Hal, due to return from Belize, where he's gone in search of Susan's employer, known only as T. Much to Susan and Casey's surprise, however, T emerges from the airplane alone, with the news that Hal has been murdered in a botched street robbery.

Susan's first reaction is one of shock and grief, of course, but that's soon replaced by a rather different set of emotions, ones that in many ways guide the decisions she makes and the self-conception she holds through the rest of the novel. "Maybe it was her, maybe she had done it, made a victim of him in the same way, in a slasher movie, the woman of low morals was doomed from the start, the buxom blonde in tight clothes good for nothing but ogling and murdering, her future blank save for the pending role as punished dead harlot." Why should Susan blame herself in a very real way for a murder that took place thousands of miles away? Because, she rationalizes, Hal left for Belize not only because T had disappeared but also because he was devastated to discover firsthand Susan's extramarital affair, just the latest in a string of infidelities.The emotional rationale for Susan's serial adultery is only revealed much later in the book, but the effect it has on her self-worth guides much of the novel's focus and action.

Susan knows she wants to get out of the Los Angeles house she shared with Hal, but she's not sure where she wants to go. That is, until she discovers that she's been left, entirely unexpectedly, the house of a recently deceased uncle.
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More About the Author

Lydia Millet is a novelist and short-story writer known for her dark humor, idiosyncratic characters and language, and strong interest in the relationship between humans and other animals. Born in Boston, she grew up in Toronto and now lives outside Tucson, Arizona with her two children, where she writes and works in wildlife conservation. Sometimes called a "novelist of ideas," Millet won the PEN-USA award for fiction for her early novel My Happy Life (2002); in 2010, her story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2008, 2011, and 2012 she published three novels in a critically acclaimed series about extinction and personal loss: How the Dead Dream, Ghost Lights, and Magnificence. June 2014 will see the publication of her first book for young-adult readers, Pills and Starships -- an apocalyptic tale of death contracts and climate change set in the ruins of Hawaii.

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