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by Hope Mirrlees
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  • Author:
    Hope Mirrlees
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    Ballantine Books; New Ed edition (1972)
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    273 pages
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a division of F+W Media, Inc. To the Memory of My Father. Lud-in-the-Mist had all the things that make an old town pleasant

a division of F+W Media, Inc. Lud-in-the-Mist had all the things that make an old town pleasant. It had an ancient Guild Hall, built of mellow golden bricks and covered with ivy and, when the sun shone on it, it looked like a rotten apricot; it had a harbor in which rode vessels with white and red and tawny sails; it had flat brick houses - not the mere carapace of human beings, but ancient living creatures, renewing and modifying themselves.

Helen) Hope Mirrlees (8 April 1887 – 1 August 1978) was a British translator, poet and novelist. She is best known for the 1926 Lud-in-the-Mist, a fantasy novel and influential classic, and for Paris: A Poem, a modernist poem that critic Julia Briggs deemed "modernism's lost masterpiece, a work of extraordinary energy and intensity, scope and ambition.

Lud-in-the-Mist (1926) is the third of three novels by British writer Hope Mirrlees. It continues the author's exploration of the themes of Life and Art, by a method already described in the preface of her first novel, Madeleine: One of Love's Jansenists (1919): "to turn from time to time upon the action the fantastic limelight of eternity, with a sudden effect of unreality and the hint of a world within a world".

Lud-in-the-Mist book. 30-odd years before Tolkein published The Lord of the Rings, a British woman named Hope Mirrlees wrote a fantasy called Lud-in-the-Mist

Lud-in-the-Mist book. 30-odd years before Tolkein published The Lord of the Rings, a British woman named Hope Mirrlees wrote a fantasy called Lud-in-the-Mist. His own Stardust draws very heavily on Lud-in-the-Mist, especially in setting and tone. Other recent novels that are reminiscent of Lud-in-the-Mist are Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke and Little, Big by John Crowley.

by. First published 1926. It had an ancient Guild Hall, built of mellow golden bricks and covered with ivy and, when the sun shone on it, it looked like a rotten apricot; it had a harbour in which rode vessels with white and red and tawny sails; it had flat brick houses - not the mere carapace of human beings, but ancient living creatures, renewing and modifying themselves.

Chapter VI The Wind in the Crabapple Blossoms. Chapter VII Master Ambrose Chases a Wild Goose and Has a Vision.

Chapter VI The Wind in the Crabapple Blossoms. Chapter VIII Endymion Leer Looks Frightened, and a Breach Is Made In an Old Friendship.

Author: Hope Mirrlees. Lud-in-the-Mist (1926) is the third novel by Hope Mirrlees, and the only one still in print as of 2005. In 1970, an American reprint appeared without the author’s permission, as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.

No Luddite ever had any truck with fairies or Fairyland. Bad business, those fairies. The people of Dorimare had run them out generations ago-and the Duke of Dorimare along with them.

The clerk shut the great tome, bowed low, and withdrew to his place; and an ominous silence reigned in the hall the Law itself could surely not.

The clerk shut the great tome, bowed low, and withdrew to his place; and an ominous silence reigned in the hall the Law itself could surely not have been colder. What power had delusion or legal fictions against the mysterious impetus propelling him along the straight white road that led he knew not whither? But Master Ambrose sprang up and demanded fiercely that the honorable Senator would oblige them by an explanation of his offensive insinuations.

You could easily be forgiven for never having heard of Lud-in-the-Mist. Heck, I only picked it up on a whim, thanks to a raving cover blurb from Neil Gaiman, who recommended it as one of his all-time favorite novels. Even then, it sat unread on my Kindle for a long while until, as I was reading some articles about Susanna Clarke's masterpiece Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I found multiple references to the book as a possible source of inspiration. And having read the book, that connection is pretty undeniable - Lud-in-the-Mist feels like a clear ancestor to Strange, a quiet, quintessentially English fantasy book about dealing with a history that we're not quite comfortable with and questioning whether it's okay to acknowledge art, music, and such "frivolous" matters in the world.

But more than that, Lud-in-the-Mist feels like a genuinely overlooked classic, a beautiful little piece of fantasy that's been ignored and forgotten for nearly a hundred years. Yes, Lud-in-the-Mist is nearly a century old, but you wouldn't know that offhand; it has a wonderfully timeless feel to it, as though it's outside of any typical signifiers of time and place. It's the tale of the titular village, where any mention of the Fairy Kingdom over the hills is verboten, where any reference to Fairy magic or efforts is among the greatest taboos, and where life is pretty simple, down-to-earth, and sensible. That is, until the children of one of the big families in town start eating fairy fruit, and a strange new dance instructor comes to town, and everything else starts getting...well, weird.

Like Strange and Norrell, Lud-in-the-Mist is as much about its world and its characters as it is any sort of story. The plot is simple, and pretty low-key; in fact, the novel's climactic scenes take place entirely off stage, and are left largely to our imagination. No, it's a book about digressions, and character dialogues, and debates about the proper way to approach the world. It's about the strange things we observe when adults aren't around, and the ways in which we sometimes feel that there must be more to the world than the everyday reality around us. And more than that, it's about how we handle realizing that we don't fit in anymore, and when we have to follow our own spirit.

It's a wonderfully human novel, and although I commented that it feels quintessentially English (it's very much a novel about restraint, shameful behavior, and proper manners, in some ways), it resonates far beyond its story and setting, touching on great and rich themes all while never betraying its fantasy setting. You could easily argue that the book is basically using its fantasy world as an allegory, and while that's not necessarily a false claim, it also overlooks just how rich and detailed the world is, and how committed it is to that world. The brief glimpses of the fairy worlds, for instance, are genuinely strange and odd, and they feel like something truly foreign to us, in a way that doesn't rely on symbolism or Big Themes. (It captures that sense of the strangeness of magic that Neil Gaiman so often relies upon; it's really no wonder that he loves this book so much.)

It's a quiet little piece of fantasy, but it's no less wonderful for its simplicity and beauty, and it's not hard to feel that it's been unjustly forgotten. Lud-in-the-Mist feels utterly unique and timeless, and I mean that in the best way; it's a window into another world that still feels as relevant today as it did 100 years ago, and still feels fresh, engaging, funny, beautiful, and rich, even with 100 years of imitators who could have come after (but don't seem to have done so). If you're a fan of Gaiman or Clarke, this is an essential read, plain and simple; if you're a fan of true fantasy - and not just the epic kind - you might find something wholly new and remarkable here. But one way or the other, it's a book that deserves to be embraced and more fully recognized as the beautiful work that it is.
What makes reading early fantasy novels (or novels that were later adopted into the fantasy genre) so interesting is how the writers involved often weren't aware (or didn't care) about working in a specified genre with certain cliches and distinctions that had to be obeyed for the audience to recognize the novel as existing in a certain genre, or else it wouldn't reach an audience that might have certain expectations as to what they expected. Reading novels like this one or tales by Lord Dunsany or ER Eddison you don't get the sense they were so might attempting to fit into an already established marketing term as writing a story as the one way they saw fit and because it fascinated them to do so. They weren't necessarily looking to carve out a spot for themselves on the endcap of a large chain bookstore by giving the people exactly what they wanted and as such weren't that concerned with fulfilling what little genre convention probably existed at the time. As a result we get some wonderfully strange tales that seem to fit uneasily into the world of fantasy, but are unable to be comfortably claimed by any other genre. They exist ultimately as themselves.

Hope Mirrlees would have probably been better known as a poet (if she was remembered these days at all) if she hadn't written this novel. As it was she only wrote three novels in her life, of which this is the most well known (the others apparently explore similar thematic territory but one is a historical novel and the other is set in what was contemporary times for her). Most of what she wrote was during her time with tutor and proto-feminist of sorts Jane Harrison. After Harrison's death, Mirrlees seemed to stop writing fiction entirely and beyond some poems, essays and the first part of a never completed biography of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton nothing else really emerged from her pen again. So if her reputation in these modern days exists at all, its partially due to fans both famous and less than famous rediscovering the novel's pleasures (it doesn't hurt that the famous fans have names like Michael Swanwick and Neil Gaiman). For me, I found it during a period in my where I was thought it was worthwhile to explore the fantasy works that existed before the hobbits showed up to trample everything under their furry, furry feet. Amusingly, not long after I bought the book I remember reading a review of it online that basically said it was a "wimpy waste of time" and then spent the next ten years watching it come nearer and nearer in the queue and wondering if I was in for some limp trudging through mushy gardens where the book would be some kind of airy monument to boredom that was more atmosphere than plot.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried, as its a fine and charming book that seems to want to convince you that it's whimsical when it really isn't at all. It's also deeply odd if you're used to standard fantasy novels as it wholeheartedly ignores every genre convention past and present to position itself as a fantasy story, a detective story and a murder mystery all in the same story, switching off from one to the other almost without warning and tossing in meditations on mortality and aging almost as an afterthought, dreamily remembering to squeeze in the plot at one point or another. It gives us the sleepy town of Lud-in-the-Mist which exists in a fictional land but seems to evoke the villages of 19th century England except it exists next to the land of Faerie, which seems to be just over the hills and across a border that everyone knows but refuses to acknowledge. A falling out with the faeries that also seems to involve one of the ancient dukes being run out of town has resulted in the current situation where everyone has collectively agreed to pretend that the faeries don't exist despite all evidence to the contrary.

It makes for a novel that always feel slightly off-kilter despite having an overall deliberate pace (the plot seems to randomly speed up and slow down, as if time is passing at different rates) where its attempting to depict a world grounded in reality, except for all the elements that make it seem unreal. The faeries, for their part, are rarely glimpsed but the presence of the nearby land always looms over the proceedings, in a way like people aware of their own mortality but unwilling to look it in the eye and acknowledge it. But their tendency to always exist in the periphery, rarely glimpsed with any true specificity, yet still somehow passively influencing everything in the book, makes it in a sense a spiritual precursor to John Crowley's "Little, Big", which takes the "fairies are real" aspect of this and sets it in a more modern (yet still timeless) world while also adding a more epic scope and a bigger emotional payoff.

Here, the feel is dreamier but no less intense. For the most part it follows the exploits of Mayor Nathaniel Chanticleer, who begins the story worried that his son might have eaten fairy fruit and is thus passing slowly into the fairy world. But sending him away is only the start of the problem and not the solution and before long the plot is skipping madly across scenes of local politics, old murders, people disguised as other people and the very real sense that this is all rapidly slipping out of their control and the best they can do is adapt to it. The key is that Chanticleer wants to adapt his way and its that struggle that informs the book.

With the plot shifting focus seemingly at whim, its one of those things that you have to go into without set expectations and be willing to move with the story's tonal changes, as scenes of gentle pastoral whimsy are often interspersed with the absolutely frightening effects of the unseen fairies on people (a sequence of girls driven mad by dancing is weirdly unsettling) and there's not much of a central hook like "kill the big dragon" or "throw the ring into a mountain" to make you feel like this is all going somewhere. But you never get the sense that Mirrlees is not in control, her characterizations are uniformly strong and never feel like an empty exercise in making a village of simply living folk . . . as ridiculous as it may seem to have a book portraying a rural people worried about fairies and the effects of their delicious fruit, you never lose the sense that they are absolutely sincere in these fears. A lot of this is due to her prose, which is light enough to make the book never lose its hazy aura but also capable of nimbly navigating the looseness of the plot and still manage to pull out scenes of quietly astonishing power. Chanticleer's musings on mortality are often gut wrenching, his constantly being haunted by a certain Note is not unlike trying to forget the first moment you realized with certainty you weren't going to live forever and his offhand thoughts on how you go from being out in the world to being only encased in a patch of ground and the memories of others and eventually to nothing at all add an air of melancholy to a book that seems to be about not losing yourself even while accepting you are going to lose everything.

By the time we cross into a land of actual magic, you've either fallen for the book's vibe or reached for something vastly more conventional. As with anything written in the 1920s it may not be completely to the taste of today's audiences and even when reclaimed by fantasy fans it still sits uncomfortably in that genre, more annexed than intended, existing in its own timeless state much the same as the village rests near the faerie border, staring across uneasily at its neighbors and wondering what they intend. But as an example of what can be done when you're writing without any concession to expectations, it proves you can create worlds that don't exist anymore and never existed and yet can still attain their own realities, with hope and fear and magic and loss that we can recognize even if we don't live there, or have similar magic of our own to exchange or convey.
This book is full of parables that you can feel the essence of, but never quite get with your conscious mind. But same as how in the book it's told that the characters understood certain things not with their mind but somehow differently, you understand it as well, without really understanding it. It's like remembering a dream after waking up - somehow it all makes sense, although nothing really does, and things can't be arranged in order at all, happening simultaneously but at the same time one after another, and having logical links without really having any at all. It's weird, but I think that's the way this book works as well. At the same time it's really sad, and also nostalgic in a sad way (as opposed to the sweet kind of nostalgia you have about, say, things from your childhood), of things that never really had anything to do with you and your life. It's like you're hearing the Note too, same as Nathaniel Chanticleer, but you have no idea what it is. It's one of those books that leaves you wondering about what happened in it at all, but then you're also not sure if it's only just a book you read..
The book may be a good one, but it's hard to tell when there's missing or invisible words on virtually every page. I assume that either the reader app or the text conversion process just can't handle the original text's bold or italicized words - so it leaves a blank space, ironically where the MOST important word should be. You can find out what the word was, by highlighting it and seeing what comes up in the dictionary pop-up, but that's not a solution that encourages immersion in the narrative.

It wasn't expensive, but I still don't feel that I got what I paid for. I guess I'll find a cheap printed copy instead - hopefully it won't be sold as "new" despite missing pages here and there...