Thursday, May 23, 2013

Magnificence; Lydia Millet

Title: Magnificence
Author: Lydia Millet
Publication Year:  2012
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co
Edition: eGalley and audio (Xe Sands-narrator)
Source: Edelweiss and library audio
Setting: CA
Date Completed: May - 2013
Rating: 3.5/5

Recommend: yes (read books 1 and 2 first)

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.
The reason for Susan's guilt is eventually revealed, and as Susan begins sorting through her uncle's extensive taxidermy collections, she ends up not only caring for the collection, but allowing other damaged individuals like herself stay with her to help with their issues as well.
Much of the novel is told through the internalized thoughts of Susan, as she dwells on the role she played in her husband's death.  Susan was an extremely flawed character, and at times I found her thoughts and ramblings moving.  I do wish that the secondary characters were more fully explored as I would have liked to know more about them. The writing was very good; at time satirical, and definitely a perceptive account of love, loss, loneliness and aging.  I liked the ending, and even though it was not perfect, it was not disappointing either. I'm so sorry I did not read the first (2) novels in this trilogy before attempting this one, and I honestly think my appreciation of this story would have been more fully realized.  I do plan to go back and read all (3) novels in order. I do recommend this author.


  1. i really enjoyed this book. I agree about the limited perspective but from what I gather each of the three books in the series are told from the same kind of perspective- one character's POV. The first one I think is her boss and the second one is her husband's (or maybe it's the other way around.) I picked up both used and plan to read them eventually. I thought the writing was really solid and enjoyable and the setting and plot not exactly unusual but just kind of off-center in a way that really worked for me. i'm glad you enjoyed it too!

  2. I think it would be helpful if they state somewhere on the book that it's part of a trilogy.

  3. Oh I can see why it would be beneficial to read the series in order.

  4. Hm, I'll try to read them in order if I decide to try this series.

  5. Oh yes those books that you like but have issues with! This does sound good and the book cover is quite intriguing.

  6. This sounds more than a bit fascinating. Great review, Diane. I'll keep this series in mind.

  7. It does sound like it is pretty good and worthy of consideration!

  8. If I did read this one it would be because I started at the beginning. I really think you are right about not reading it out-of-order as it left some holes for you to try to fill in.

  9. I didn't realize this was part of a trilogy either. Sounds like I might like it but I find pieces of a trilogy never stand alone well. If they did they wouldn't be a trilogy.

  10. Does sound like something that would have been helped by reading the full series. So many times books are marketed as being able to be read as stand alone but often they really aren't. You miss so much back story that would help.

  11. This book, nor it's previous books, ever crossed by attention before. I'm in awe of the cover and think it's one of the loveliest I've ever seen. I will have to check out the first book and go from there


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