The novel begins in the middle of what the characters self-consciously call the Tale. Smoky Bar-nable, a shy and old-fashioned bachelor from New York City (called only “the City”), journeys to the idiosyncratically built and literally magical estate, Edgewood, to marry his destined love, Alice Dale Drinkwater (nicknamed Daily Alice). The story unfolds both backward and forward, from the founding of the clan by architect John Drinkwater and his fey wife Violet Bramble (daughter of a spiritualist reverend) to the tale’s culmination, in which Daily Alice’s generation and their offspring permanently populate and renew the fading realm of the fairies.
The Drinkwaters all know that they share some secret destiny, although the women more gracefully play their parts and the men tend toward confusion or even irritation. The gifts of the fairies are not all benevolent, as Violet and John’s son August discovers. His wish that all women love him leads to his supposed death and actual metamorphosis into Grandfather Trout, giver of ambiguous advice. Violet’s illegitimate son Auberon is hurt by lack of contact with “them” and the secret from which he feels excluded. John Storm “Doc” Drinkwater, Daily Alice’s father, benefits from his ability to understand animals talking, becoming a successful writer of children’s books.
A tarotlike deck is handed down from Violet to her daughter Nora, from her to Doc’s wife Aunt Sophie, and finally...
(The entire section is 482 words.)