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The Virgin In The Garden Paperback – 1 Dec 1994

3.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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£9.98 FREE Delivery in the UK on orders with at least £10 of books. Only 13 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (1 Dec. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099478013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099478010
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 237,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Large, complex, ambitious, humming with energy and ideas... A remarkable achievement" (Iris Murdoch)

"Comic, well plotted, immensely touching... Gaudy excitement and splendour" (The Times)

"One to be reckoned with. It cannot be glibly praised or readily dismissed; it is, massively, there, and demands serious consideration" (Financial Times)

"An ambitious novel [whose] narrative everywhere displays knowledge and intelligence" (Times Literary Supplement)

Book Description

Enlightenment and sexuality intersect in this novel from the Booker Prize winning author of Possession and The Children's Book

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Okay, so you've probably read "Possession", "Angels & Insects", maybe some of her short stories ... what next? The Frederica Quartet is supposed to be good - but this first volume is already a 500-odd page tome; and there's three more after that. The Vintage paperback has a rather stony-faced Queen Bess on the front; and the publisher's blurb doesn't entirely help either: the comment "... it is massively THERE" didn't have me scurrying to start reading.
Don't be put off, though: this is a great read; often funny, occasionally shockingly dark, and featuring a main character who is very much a heroine to cheer for (all the more so since Byatt goes out of her way to make her seem obnoxious). Frederica Potter is a marvellous creation: freakishly intelligent and hardened to unpopularity at school, she combines an overwhelming confidence in her own abilities with late adolescent gawkiness - a very winning combination for the reader, if not for the other characters ("that awful girl"). The main plot strand concerns Frederica's often comic attempts to lose her virginity while starring in a verse drama about the Virgin Queen, which is being put on for the coronation of the second Elizabeth. Set against this is the (terrifying) mental breakdown and folie a deux of Frederica's brother Marcus and his biology teacher; and their sister Stephanie's choice of marriage and domesticity over an academic career.
All of Byatt's usual themes are here: ways of "seeing" (Marcus' visionary experiences are frightening glimpses into another universe, terrifically well written); the dangers (particularly for women) of "not being seen"; the hazards of family life. The backdrop of the Fifties is beautifully conjured, and the characters are complex and fascinating. Not always an easy read; but it turns out to be something of a page-turner having got over that difficult first step of actually opening it and starting it. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This is my favourite work of A.S. Byatt to date, probably due to the subject matter and the period in which it is set, respectively, human relations and the post-war period into which I was born. However, wherever you chose to start, A.S. Byatt will astound with her mastery of English, her scholarship and her skill as a teller of tales.
With a combination like this, there is always a tension. Do you whip through to find out what happens? Or do you control yourself and give the book, as art, as philosophy, as psychology, the attention it deserves? A friend, who normally has no time for Eng Lit, solved this by skipping all the poetry in "Possession" and promising herself a revisit - not a bad compromise. I've read "The Virgin" twice, slowly, listened to at least two radio adaptations and will be going back for more later.
"The Virgin" is the first of the "Frederica Quartet", the rest being "Still Life", "Babel Tower" and "A Whistling Woman". I wouldn't term Frederica a heroine, indeed, the characters are all so true to life, such a mixture of good and bad, that the notion of heroism is inappropriate, but at seventeen she is certainly purposeful. She is desperate to loose her virginity, play a leading role in a verse drama written by the man she's besotted with and do well in her A-levels. She is also tough, able to withstand her mercurial father and her unpopularity at school, fierce and full of energy.
As a somewhat androgynous redhead, she is partner to that other virgin, Elizabeth 1, who is the subject of the verse drama, which is to be performed in the gardens of a local country house as part of the celebration of the coronation of the second Elizabeth.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the huge first part of The Frederica Quartet. It is set in 1950s and cleverly evokes life in suburban northern England. The Potters are a fairly horrific family - bullying father, subservient mother, obnoxious Frederica and troubled Marcus. Only Stephanie, the older sister, comes over as sympathetic. Most other characters are also flawed and tending to be vain, predatory, selfish - or just plain mad.

It doesn't sound like a recipe for a great reading experience but we are soon pulled into the narrative. Will Alexander's pageant be a success or a dramatic disaster? Surely Stephanie the atheist won't marry Daniel (the somewhat dull church minister)? And to whom will the precocious and dislikeable Frederica lose her virginity?

The Virgin in the Garden is a challenging read in parts with many references to classical mythology. She writes with a terrifying mix of comic and cringe-worthy episodes - such as the descent into madness of Lucas and the attempted seduction of Frederica by Ed the travelling salesman.

A tough read in parts but it is worth the effort and I look forward to reading the next three books.
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By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 24 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
The first of the 'Frederica' Quartet, and the most accessible; and possibly Byatt's most accessible novel to date. Byatt provides us with a rich and varied cast of characters, two major focuses for the drama - the unlikely wedding of star Eng-Lit scholar turned schoolteacher Stephanie to the eccentric curate Daniel, and a play about Elizabeth I written to celebrate the coronation of Elizabeth II, in which Stephanie's sister Frederica is playing the young Elizabeth - and some marvellous descriptions of post-war Britain. I was drawn to a good many of the characters: Daniel, the man who uses religion as an outlet for his boundless energy (though I DO wish Byatt wouldn't be so embarrassed about having a Christian character and try to explain away Daniel's faith; there are a great many intelligent Christians after all!); Stephanie, raised an atheist but deeply Christian in her outlook on life and longing to escape her ambitious father; Alexander, the elegant playwright, always getting into trouble due to the fact he is irresistible to several women; Frederica, wild, unpopular, intelligent and desperate for love; Bill, fierce Leavisite father of Stephanie and Frederica; Thomas Poole, the lecturer and actor in Alexander's play who falls passionately in love with a not-particularly-interesting schoolgirl; Matthew Crowe, the slightly lewd lord of the manor - to name but a few. Byatt's descriptions of the staging of Alexander's play are brilliant and often hilarious, and her depiction of Stephanie and Daniel's love affair moving. I also found the information on Elizabeth I fascinating, and Byatt also captures very well what it is like to be a fierce young adolescent girl full of ambition and desires, but uncertain of the future.Read more ›
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