Little, Big is possibly the best modern fantasy novel ever. It is innovative and traditional, reflective and eventful, intimate and intricately formal. In many ways, it is no more “fantastic” than any other novel, since it involves the kind of magic that is real, as experienced by a family who are imaginary in a sort of ideal way. It is best appreciated by well-read grownups who are willing to take the time to savor its details, because the mind-blowing bigness of the story is packed into its littlest bits.
There is usually an exotic element to the setting and/or plot of Irwin’s novels, but The Limits of Vision takes place in a single day in the life of a 20th-century English housewife named Marcia. The text follows her fantasies, wonders, and anxieties throughout, and she gives a wonderful new level of meaning to the phrase unreliable narrator.
Despite her morning coffee with the neighbor housewives, Marcia is a solitary soul in a distant marriage, and her visionary experiences stack up favorably against those of any anchorite you’d care to name. Instead of seeing Jesus like Julian of Norwich did, Marcia receives visits from various artistic and scientific geniuses of more modern periods. She also resists the onslaught of the diabolical intelligences that she associates with the dirt of her house.
I can’t offer too much more detail without ruining the delightful surprises of this short book, which develops quite a tense plot, all things considered.