Friday, June 10, 2016


Magnificence, Lydia Millet, W W Norton & Company, 2013, 255 pp

Summary from Goodreads: Susan Lindley, a woman adrift. Embarking on a new phase in her life after inheriting her uncle’s sprawling mansion and its vast collection of taxidermy, Susan decides to restore the neglected, moth-eaten animal mounts, tending to “the fur and feathers, the beaks, the bones and shimmering tails.” Meanwhile an equally derelict human menagerie—including an unfaithful husband and a chorus of eccentric old women—joins her in residence.

In a setting both wondrous and absurd, Susan defends her legacy from freeloading relatives and explores the mansion’s unknown spaces. Funny and heartbreaking, Magnificence explores evolution and extinction, children and parenthood, loss and revelation. The result is the rapturous final act to the critically acclaimed cycle of novels that began with How the Dead Dream.

My Review:
Now I have come to the end of the trilogy: How the Dead Dream, Ghost Lights, Magnificence. I see why she calls it a trilogy (or at least the publisher calls it that.) Characters from the previous books inhabit the latter in a sequence where the time is a bit later than when the former book ended. Each book features a different character as the protagonist. Very David Mitchell.

Because I don't like to put spoilers in my reviews, I can't say much about the plot in Magnificence because I would spoil the end of Ghost Lights. (I even edited out the spoiler from the Goodreads summary.)

I can say that this volume features Susan, the unfaithful wife of Hal and secretary to T. You learn about the marriage of Hal and Susan from her point of view as well as her reasons for sleeping around.

I can also say that the story is extremely woman-centered. I liked that. It is also slower or less plot centered, a bit more meandering and for that reason was overall not as impressive as the first two.
But the last chapter in which Susan stops being foggy-headed, indecisive, vague, and has her ah hah moment is so magnificent that I suddenly saw where the author was heading through the entire three book cycle. So much so that I feel the titles of the books could be interchangeable.

The dead are always dreaming, the ghosts are always shining lights, and the magnificence of life underlies all. 

(Magnificence is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)  


  1. Hmmm...I guess one would have to read the trilogy to understand what's going on?

  2. I do enjoy reading series and seeing the story from the differing points of view of various characters. This sounds like a trilogy just made for my reading tastes.

  3. Another trilogy conquered ... good work.

    1. You know, you are right. It is a good feeling.

  4. I'm perhaps narrow minded but trilogy is not my cup of tea...