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Magnificence: A Novel Hardcover


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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: 8.4 x 5.9 x 1 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: #777,608 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)

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.

Customer Reviews

I did not realize that this book was a part of a series when I began reading it.
Nimily
Millet is a compelling and mesmerizing curator of her characters' psyches and the tapestries of their thoughts.
Evelyn A. Getchell
I didn't feel the ending did justice to the first two-thirds, but endings are difficult.
Joanne Clarke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn A. 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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By Michael Thompson on March 11, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm a little shocked at the smallness of something that was a runner up in the Pulitzer Prize category. Lydia is intelligent but I can't say much else. I hope she has a story to tell next time.
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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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By jcar3cats on March 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This final installment in the trilogy (beginning with HOW THE DEAD DREAM and continuing with GHOST LIGHTS) is engaging and well written. As in the earlier novels, MAGNIFICENCE takes readers into the intimate thoughts of its principal character in ways that cause us to recognize our own less than praise-worthy motivations while somehow maintaining interest and respect for her. The plot is not predictable, making it an intriguing read. My only real disappointment - and here's a partial spoiler alert - is that the ending is not satisfying, as it is neither a real conclusion nor an indication of what will follow.
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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
First, I did not realize that this was the third book in a trilogy. That goes a long way toward explaining the background that is missing here.
Second, another reviewer characterized it as inert. I'd agree; there is way too much of Susan's rambling internal thoughts that go nowhere. Things do happen but the author's style puts everything at a distance so it seems to just mosey along.
Third, taxidermy is not one of my favorite topics and there is much too much talk of the great-uncle's house filled with stuffed animals. Eew! Regardless of the space, greenery and birds, all those animals totally turned me off and I couldn't believe Susan was comfortable in that house.

Bottom line: Disappointing, dull and not recommended.
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