Charles Palliser


If anyone has any thoughts about the hidden structure, puzzles and meaning of "The Quincunx" by Charles Palliser (or if anyone can direct me to any useful discussions or essays on the book), I'd love to hear from him/her/it. Thanks! (Write to me at

>>By Peter   (Friday, 30 May 2003 04:53)

Entering the Quincunx was like a sad labyrinth that just kept spiralling down and down and down. I was astonished at how the lives of the mother and son could get any lower! That being said, it was a time travel experience: London as it progressed through the Industrial Revolution... the gas lights expanding over the previously candle lit countryside. I was not really satisfied with the ending. I did not believe the protagonist would behave towards his long time girl friend in that manner. I know there are people who have RE-read this book (unbelievable) with an eye towards figuring it out. Hmm. Can't imagine that.

>>By Moontrout   (Sunday, 18 Jun 2006 20:13)

Peter, it's very complex to explain in a few words. The structure is mathematical, based on the number 5: 5 books, 5 chapters etc.
Aside from the complexities and different versions of the 5 families involved, the plot itself is centred around 2 principal mysteries: who killed John Huffam / Melamphy / Clothier's father. And what HAPPENED on the wedding night (this puts in doubt the parentage of John, i.e. was the marriage consumated? There are hints that Martin Fortisquince is the father).
The answer to the first mystery: There are several versions, John is searching for the TRUTH; there are several "truths", we can accept or interpret these in different ways.
The answer to the second mystery: THERE IS NO ANSWER, the "answer" was in the pages of John's mother's jounal which she tore out and made him burn (exactly at the centre of the novel by the way). One possible interpretation of this metaphor: we are all searching for "truths", several "truths" exist. THE REAL TRUTH we will never find, someone has torn out and burned the pages.
Ms. Moontrout: I have RE-read this book (why unbelievable?), to appreciate GOOD literature, a second and sometimes even a third reading is necessary. Your mocking tone suggests that you did not fully understand the book and therefore perhaps thought it dull. One such misunderstanding you have - "The protagonist's long time girlfriend", they actually met each other only 3 times in their lifetimes and only once exchanged a light kiss on the cheek. Long time Girlfriend?

>>By Shadowfax   (Saturday, 13 Jan 2007 12:23)

The discussion board is currently closed.