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The Bedlam Stacks Hardcover – August 1, 2017
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"An epic journey . . . Pulley adroitly departs from the historical record to make the Peruvian story her own, turning it into a work for magic realism." - The New York Times Book Review
"The Peru that Markham and Tremayne encounter is a sheer fantastical delight. Exploding 'whitewood' trees, lamps made of glowing pollen, moving statues and rock formations of pure glass. Pulley also has a Tolkienian appreciation of the importance of cosiness: centrally heated ships' cabins, snug inns and lashings of hot coffee. What's more, she writes elegantly and plots like a pro." - The Times
"The imagination [Pulley] showed in her impressive debut was no fluke . . . Pulley understands her genre--swashbuckling costume fantasy--but she deals in surprises, not clichés . . . [A] meditation on love, trust, and the passage of time." - Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
"[A] witty, entrancing novel . . . Pulley makes the fantastic feel plausible and burnishes her reputation as a gifted storyteller." - Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
"Pulley is masterful at infusing The Bedlam Stacks with just the right amount of magical realism and mystery, making this story reminiscent of classic adventure tales of old while being relevant to today . . . Enchanting." - Shelf Awareness
"Pulley's beautifully descriptive language sets the stage for a mysterious and dangerous journey reminiscent of the grand scientific expeditions of the nineteenth century." - Booklist
"Impossible to put down until the end and highly re-readable, Pulley's second novel is magical." - San Francisco Book Review
"Natasha Pulley had a lot to live up to after the runaway success of her debut novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. But she's managed to do just that with The Bedlam Stacks . . . It's a fast-paced adventure story with great characters and a message about colonialism and discovering new worlds . . . Filled with wondrous images, from moving statues to exploding trees." - The Glasgow Herald
"A fast-paced adventure story with great characters and a message about colonialism." - The Independent
"Natasha Pulley's captivating landscape unfolds slowly, her exquisitely crafted prose illuminating magical elements moving just at the edge of perception . . . The Bedlam Stacks is a lyrical paean to the power of transformation, faith and friendship." - BookPage
"[A] complex, immersive story . . . a marvelous mix of historical fiction and the fantastical." - Omnivoracious
"An exotic and magical mystery." - BookPage, "Top 10 Books for August"
"Fans of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (who will be pleased that a character from that novel makes a cameo appearance) know that Pulley has a way with damaged characters who are looking for a new purpose in life. While there are steampunk elements, including clockwork lamps, there's also a subtle inexplicable magic running throughout the unusual, remote setting." - Library Journal
"A magical hugely imaginative novel set in 1859 . . . Adventure and mystery abound as his expedition encounters moving statues, exploding trees, volcanic glass, floating cities and protective Incas, while dealing with altitude sickness, divided loyalties and otherworldly superstitions that turn out be strangely real." - The Sunday Express
"The story's rich detail provides the reader a clear experience of 1850s Peru while imparting believability to its magic and imaginative elements. Its exciting style, humor and uniqueness are nothing short of charming. Enthusiastically recommended." - Historical Novel Society
"In The Bedlam Stacks, Natasha Pulley's unconventional imagination finds a new voice." - Locus
About the Author
Natasha Pulley, the author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, studied English literature at Oxford University and earned a creative writing M.A. at the University of East Anglia. She lives near Ely in Cambridgeshire, England.
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The novel starts off a bit slow, but Pulley's writing is elegant and quickly snagged me in once our main character, Merrick Tremayne, finds himself embarking on an expedition to Peru, specifically a mountain town that's known well by his grandfather and father, in order to smuggler cuttings of cinchona trees to treat malaria in India. The magical realism of the beliefs of this village mixes amazingly well with the beautiful imagery of native Peru as I found myself straddling the line along with Merrick of what could possibly be true. Each page was a thrill to turn and I found myself so excited to find out what was going to happen next.
The Bedlam Stacks is a beautiful story of friendship and cultural intrigue. It may require some patience, but I swear to you, it's worth it.
In a first person narrative of journalistic simplicity whose contemporary sounding English voice belies its Victorian era setting, just one of the strange electric shocks that disorient the reader, we are told a most fantastic tale in the most matter-of-fact manner. In fact, The Bedlam Stacks is something of a mysterious prequel to The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Natasha Pulley seems to be creating her own literary universe in which time, and everything human that's trapped within it like a fly in amber, stops being linear and is molded and shaped by people with unusual abilities and gifts.
The peculiar unmooring of reality that permeates the novel begins rather early in the book with a strange series of little, almost insignificant events, mysteries whose solutions unfold slowly but that lead to even greater mysteries. To call The Bedlam Stacks a novel of magical realism, steam-punk era fantasy, alternative science fiction or even anthropological mythology, is limiting at best. It's all of these things and more. It revels in the mysteries of the Incas, it frets over the European exploitation of third-world countries, touches on the inexplicable nature of religion and faith and offers a long, hard look at the difficulties of friendship.
But most of all, The Bedlam Stacks is a novel fascinated by the inexplicable nature of time and the almost painfully confused human response to its ineffable strangeness. The events in the novel cover several centuries but these events are not remote in time from each other. They are connected in a way that is so fantastic, yet told in such a reasonable fashion, with details carefully ordered throughout the novel to insure the reader's belief, that reality itself becomes malleable and the dream-stuff of living becomes plausible fact.
In order not to betray the novel's many surprises I'm reluctant to detail the plot, which in any case defies easy explication. Although the novel is easy to read, It has a haunting beauty that makes it hard to forget. If a novel of imaginative brilliance and creative intelligence meets your criteria for a worthwhile work of fiction, The Bedlam Stacks may excite you as much as it did me.
It is not my type of book but it did become tedious from it's repetitive description with little content to change the direction.
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The spellbinding adventure story of a British expedition to Peru in 1860 to steal Cinchona trees for their desperately needed Quinine...Read more