The Bedlam Stacks

The Bedlam Stacks

Book - 2017 | First U. S. edition
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In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg. On the sprawling, crumbling grounds of the old house, something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather's pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness. When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine--essential for the treatment of malaria--from deep within Peru, he knows it's a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who's made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked. Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick's grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury, 2017
Edition: First U. S. edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781620409671 (hardcover)
1620409674 (hardcover)
Branch Call Number: FIC PULLEY
Characteristics: 337 pages : map ; 24 cm


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Aug 10, 2018

If you enjoy Alice Hoffman, you may enjoy this novel. The magical realism is very subtle, but it's the plot that will tie you in. Everything in the plot moves so smoothly and it's like openly one door only to find the next and the next, you don't know where you're going to be page after page but it all ties up nicely and the characters are so charming, the fragile man in the dilapidated house, the gardeners who remind me of lawn gnomes.

Feb 13, 2018

I read and enjoyed Pulley's "Watchmaker of Filigree Street" and wanted to read more by this author so checked out Bedlam. Pulley used a unique writing style with Watchmaker that I enjoyed. For me Bedlam was not the enjoyable read that Watchmaker was. In both books the author uses a writing style that purposefully does not give the reader all the facts but things unroll slowly. This style added mystery in Filigree Street but in Bedlam the story felt kind of choppy and confusing. Then there is a part near the end where the current story is interrupted to tell a flashback story of the main characters past where things move from Peru to the Orient. This all kind of happens out of the blue and in drops a Character from Filigree street. This was weird and unnecessary to the story in my opinion. There are so many good ideas in the the book. The story itself is cool. But the way it is told was difficult to sit back and enjoy. I felt I could not get a handle on who the main two characters really were as they did not seem to hold to a consistent personality. I would recommend reading Watchmaker instead. Or try the "Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern.

SPL_Robyn Oct 16, 2017

Reviewed in the Stratford Gazette, October 2017. See Summary.

Marlowe Oct 05, 2017

Such an amazing story! I have not felt this exhilarated and excited to read in a long time. Pulley is a wonderfully imaginative author, who transports the reader to another time and place, specifically 1860's Peru. Two young men are on a quest for cinchona trees, and we travel through snow, and forests, over mountains, and to mystical landscapes with mysterious characters and events. This book is full of lush landscapes and descriptions. You will become connected to the main characters.


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SPL_Robyn Oct 16, 2017

Merrick Tremayne, wounded from his smuggling days in the Far East and biding time at his decrepit family estate, should have known something extraordinary was going to happen. The distinct and ancient white-wooded tree, brought back from Peru by his Grandfather, fell onto the roof and exploded. The eroded, smiling statue outside his beloved greenhouse seemed to shift position of its own accord. Among his grandfather’s papers he finds a strange and disturbing sketch that he vaguely recognizes. So when a former army colleague shows up and invites him to Peru to smuggle out valuable cinchona trees – the source of much needed quinine for the British Empire – Merrick figures he has nothing keeping him in Cornwall and decides to go, even though with his wounded leg it will be a hard journey indeed.

Saying they are in Peru for coffee, Merrick and his partner meet their guide, Raphael, a priest of undetermined race and background. Though reluctant to help the British foreigners, he leads them to the hidden village of Bedlam, high in the mountains. It is slow going, and by turns freezing and hot, and between bouts of altitude sickness Merrick begins to realize the strangeness of his new surroundings… the is village separated from the forest by a line of salt and bone, and luminous pollen powers clockwork lamps and leaves trails in the woods where someone, or something, travels. There are more of the statues which do indeed move, perhaps of their own accord, and perhaps are far more important than mere decorative markers. While the deadline to acquire the cinchona trees looms, Merrick begins to understand the mysterious and taciturn Raphael, and in turn learns more of his own family’s connection to this area of deepest Peru – and that means he must make a nearly impossible choice before he loses what is most important to him in the world.

Natasha Pulley’s second novel is as evocative and beguiling as her first (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street), containing lush description and elements of steampunk, history, swashbuckling and magic – perfect for any armchair adventure-seeker.


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