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The Game Paperback – 15 Oct 1992

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (15 Oct. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099998408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099998402
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 457,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A.S. Byatt is internationally known as a novelist, short-story writer and critic. Her novels include Possession (winner of the Booker Prize in 1990), and the quartet of The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, as well as The Shadow of the Sun, The Game and The Biographer's Tale. Her latest novel, The Children's Book, is shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2009. She is also the author of two novellas, published together as Angels and Insects, and four collections of stories, and has co-edited Memory: An Anthology.

Educated at York and Newnham College, Cambridge, she taught at the Central School of Art and Design, and was Senior Lecturer in English at University College, London, before becoming a full-time writer in 1983. She was appointed CBE in 1990 and DBE in 1999.

Product Description


"Complex and thoughtful" Times Literary Supplement "One of our finest living novelist, who manages to tease and to satisfy both the intellect and the imagination" Daily Telegraph

Book Description

The bond between two sisters becomes strained when a mutual love from their past comes back into their lives.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 24 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book concerns two sisters, one a writer, very successful, and the other an academic, a female Don, in fact, who is withdrawn, cold-natured and rather reclusive. This is Cassandra, the older of the two, who we get to know only very slightly. The Game refers to a somewhat Brontean adventure they invented as children, very complex and based on battles and romance. The younger sister, Julia, is more open and knowable. Cassandra writes a detailed journal giving every detail of her day, and she seems utterly self-controlled and rather forbidding, certainly to her undergraduates who are terrified of her. Julia it seems is easily-led and more or less throws herself at a TV executive who wants her to be on a kind of discussion programme. This is written up as something that would never get on TV in a million years, as if the writer had heard of television, but never seen it. Julia's husband sounded quite interesting, but A S Byatt isn't interested in him at all. He is a sort of charity guru, who really wants to go to the Congo and help people. At one point he opens his household to a family from a slum (this is how they are described in the book), and life gets pretty chaotic. If all this sounds a bit indefinite, this is because the book is choked, often strangled with intellectual conversation, and it's quite hard to get a handle on what's going on. They talk and talk - all of them, endlessly. Much of the two sister's past seems to be wound up with another TV star, who produces programmes about, mainly, snakes. He talks endlessly too.

I could not gain the first idea of what it was all meant to be about. There are incidents, but these are too talky to get one anywhere useful with these people. Much of the book seemed to me to be unreadable.
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By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 23 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
A tale of two sisters, jealous and distrustful of each other but nevertheless with a strong bond, and a need for each other. Cassandra, shy, difficult and moody, is an Oxford don; Julia, insecure, glamorous, vulnerable, a bestselling novelist. As children growing up in Northumberland and unhappy at boarding school they invented an intense game, creating a magical land (rather like the Bronte sisters' Gondal and Angria) populated with characters from Arthurian myth. But as adults their mistrust of each other grew - when Julia intrudes on Cassandra's relationship with Simon, their intense young neighbour, Cassandra tries to break off contact with her younger sister. Years later, their father's death brings the two sisters back into each other's company - at the same time, Simon re-enters their lives, initially via a television programme on South America (he has become a naturalist with an expertise in snakes) and, in the second part of the book, in the flesh, as he returns to London and to seek out both women. Although they try to build up a 'normal' friendship, rivalry springs up between the sisters all over again, even though Julia is married with a child. Keen to understand her sister's feelings for Simon, and to work out her own fear of her sister, Julia explores her thoughts about Cassandra in fiction - with devastating results.

This is powerful writing, and from the period before Byatt was trying too hard to show her intellectual and academic skills: yes, there's plenty of reference to literature, and history, and she's keen to show that she knows plenty about snakes, but this is also a very gripping story, with real flesh-and-blood characters.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Aug. 2001
Format: Paperback
My personal favorite thing about Byatt's novels are the visual aspects - the shapes and structures that take form in my mind while I read. "The Game" left me with strange, disturbing and demanding images that have stayed with me for a long time. In the novel the author moves on the borderline between reality and imagination, and plays with questions of fact and fiction. Byatt does this well. A strong narrative is important in a good novel - and "The Game" has a fascinating and well constructed plot - although I did find it a little "wordy" and slow at times - like Iris Murdoch. (Brilliant, but sometimes rather boring, to be honest.) AND: For once "idea-people" come accross as real people in a novel, not just literary constructions. So this is a story about real people and abstract ideas and their complex unity. I feel at home in it...
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Rob on 22 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
I became quite wrapped up in this novel. The Game refers not only to a childhood invention between the two sisters, Julia and Cassandra, but also to the ups and downs of their adult relationship. Neither are likeable characters (and we are left wondering whether their Quaker undirected up-bringing moulded them that way) but Byatt creates them as believable people with whom we can identify. The plot has several layers, and even at the end we are not sure which sister has won.
I loved the ambiguity, the way that the novel can be taken at face value or seen in the light of a game with no rules, indeed a game to the death. The sisters both love and hate each other; Cassandra is a private person who resents and is cruel to her sister; Julia is always trying to gain Cassandra's attention without any respect for her privacy. They part company after involvement with a young neighbour, Simon, but are later re-united on their father's death.
Julia attempts to become part of Cassandra's life again, and in doing so gains material for her latest novel. She then publishes the novel, almost a biographical work of Cassandra and her relationship with Simon, the ultimate betrayal of Cassandra's need for privacy. Cassandra finds the intrusion unbearable and commits suicide.
A review cannot do justice to the intensity of feeling that Byatt inspires. There are some passages which are too detailed, and the portrayal of Cassandra's insanity, Simon's fascination with snakes, also some of the Quaker background, become boring at times. However it is worth skipping through those parts to get the full enjoyment out of this excellent novel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
GET REAL 14 Sept. 2003
By Sesho - Published on
Format: Paperback
Julia, a writer, and Cassandra, an Oxford professor, are two sisters pushing into their 40s that have been estranged for 20 years ever since a man named Simon Moffit came between them and then disappeared from their lives. One day as they are watching television they learn that Simon has now become a naturalist similar to the Crocodile Hunter who likes to get close to dangerous animals in their native habitat. Simon is also coming back to England after being away filming his documentaries and back into the two sister's lives. Julia has gotten married in the meantime and has a child that looks suspiciously like Simon while Cassandra has tried to distance herself from reality, shying from human interaction, cocooned in her office at Oxford. Simon's return will force both of the sisters to examine the loss of their childhood bond when they played an imaginary game, a la the Bronte sisters, in which they chronicled the exploits of knights and ladies to make the time go by. They will also have to figure out their feelings for Simon after spending half their life pining for what has become a man they know now only through tv images and imagination and memories.
This was A.S. Byatt's second novel, published in 1967, the summer of love and all that business. It is a masterful work. Julia runs into trouble when she writes a book about Simon and Cassandra and all the mess they went through. Both sisters begin to question whether their lives have become fiction or whether the fictions they made up as kids have become their lives. It is an interesting question for a writer's second work and one which I've seen taken up by Dostoyevsky. The Game is really about whether other people's perceptions of us is stronger than our own self-image. It illustrates what happens to those who are strong enough to shake that image and those weak enough to have their personalities shaped by those they love.
I had always known of Byatt by reputation but this is the first book I have read by her. I am very happy that she did not disappoint and look forward to reading the works of her maturity.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A foreshadowing of Byatt's work to come 6 Jan. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This earlier novel deals with many of Byatt's favorite themes: the relationships between sisters, the creative process, literary criticism, the academic world, the struggle of married women to retain their intellectual and personal identity within a circumscribing institution. The game of the title is an Arthurian fantasy devised in childhood by two intense, competitive, and willful sisters, now estranged. To the sisters, the game retains even in adulthood a vibrance and power to which real life cannot compare. To the reader, however, the game is frustratingly vague. In later works, Byatt would have articulated the game as an alternative and interwoven narrative, but here Byatt refuses readers access to the tantalizing imaginative world of her characters. Thus, the characters remain slightly repellent ciphers and the novel seems merely a earlier draft for the richer novels Byatt had not yet written. This books seems to be more closely autobiographical than some later works on the same themes, and perhaps for this reason she feels compelled to keep the reader at arm's length.

An unsatisfying exercise interesting only in the context of Byatt's later writings.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Definitely Not "Possession..." 3 Jun. 2001
By Tracy H. Slagter - Published on
Format: Paperback
Like [others], I, too was disappointed somewhat with The Game. In Byatt's other work, her characters seem more fully developed and their problems seem more real. In this work, Julia and Cassandra are superficial actors of a cerebral plot, and because of this I found it difficult to care about what happened to either of them. I thought Byatt's plot had the potential to be quite intriguing; however, it was difficult to understand at times the interplay between what was actually happening in the lives of Julia and Cassandra and how they made those occurrences "real" for one another. I rate this book a 3 because it fades considerably when compared to Byatt's other work, most notably Possession. This is not to say that it is poorly written -- Byatt has a familiar style that carries the reader along quite nicely. The flaws here are a plot that fails to truly engage the reader and characters who do not demand the reader's sympathy.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An engaging read 5 Oct. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Although it's some years since I read this excellent book, the reviews thus far in my view, do not do it justice. Many people know of Byatt's writing through her book "Possession" but although this is a fine example of her work, all her writing demonstrates a wonderful story-telling ability, embroidered throughout by her extensive literary and historic knowledge. "The Game" is a very "readable" novel, drawing the reader in as the tale evolves. To over analyze "The Game" is to miss the beauty of the mystery and intrigue; to miss the interplay between the main characters and the complexities of family emotions. "The Game" is a wonderful book for any mystery-loving reader and for anyone who has not already been drawn in by Byatt's writing is an excellent place to begin a reading relationship with her work.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Not Byatt's best, by a long shot 23 Jan. 2002
By Kelly (Fantasy Literature) - Published on
Format: Paperback
I think the Ingram reviewer above was on something when he wrote of the "danger" that grew from the sisters' game, and of the "evil man determined to control their thoughts". I didn't get any of that out of _The Game_.
_The Game_ is basically the story of two sisters: Julia, a sociable but shallow novelist who writes about the boredom of domestic life; and Cassandra, a nunlike scholar who hides away from real life in the cloistered world of high academia. The "game" referred to in the title is an imaginary Arthurian world invented by the sisters when they were children, but it has little bearing on the rest of the novel, except in that Cassandra went on to become an Arthurian scholar, and Julia uses it as an example of Cassandra's condescension. It could have been dropped from the plot without much effect, which is sad for me, since the Arthurian element is the biggest reason I wanted to read the book in the first place.
Leaving out Arthur, who is mostly irrelevant anyway, we have Julia and Cassandra, who are just repairing their estranged relationship, when Simon Moffat comes back into their life. Simon was both women's first love; Cassandra adored him from a distance, while Julia slept with him. This triangle was the reason for their estrangement. When he reappears, so do the tensions between the sisters.
_The Game_ failed to engage me; most of the characters were pretty one-dimensional and cold. Cassandra had a few moments of stunning dignity, but she didn't seem real either. A.S. Byatt has gotten much better since.
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