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The Children's Book Paperback – 7 Jan 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 165 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (7 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099535459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099535454
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Intricately worked and sumptuously inlaid novel...seethes and pulses with an entangled life, of the mind and the senses alike. Colour and sensation flood Byatt's writing...she is a master-potter, or magic-working puppeteer" (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

"Superlatively displays both enormous reach and tremendous grip...sizzling with ideas and alive with imaginative energy, too...this is the most stirring novel AS Byatt has written since Possession" (Sunday Times)

"It's success is as a novel of ideas, forcefully and often memorably expressed, while the story follows darkening fortunes into a chastened postwar world" (Helen Dunmore The Times)

"Compelling...strenuously inclusive and also tremendously enriching - an intricate tale, energetically fashioned from sturdy strands of material, by "a spinning fairy in the attic", an indefatigable storyteller" (Irish Times)

"Astonishing power and resonance" (Jane Shilling Sunday Telegraph)

"More than a novel, this is a historical primer, discursive, shimmering with colour and texture, containing stories within stories and giving walk-on parts to luminaries of the age... For fans of Byatt this is better than Possession. A truly great novel" (Daily Express)

"Light and lustrous, commanding and transporting, The Children's Book is superb" (Daily Mail)

"The Children's Book beats even its predecessors" (Julian Evans Prospect)

"The sort of high concept rarefied intellectual fiction we'd expect from, well, A S Byatt. Posession: the next generation" (Sophie Gee Financial Times)

"Beautiful, bracing and bold. Her handling of dialogue is unfussy, precise and rude. This is a moving book. Its words are beautifully chosen... AS Byatt is Gaudi and Christopher Wren rolled in to one" (Tom Adair Scotsman)

"Extraordinary rich book is superbly embedded in the thoughts and beliefs and feelings if the period - and indeed in its interior décor" (Caroline Moore Spectator)

"Magnificent loquacity...gripping and often deeply affecting" (Pamela Norris Literary Review)

"Byatt's novel combines meaty ideas with the breathless page-turning propulsion of an old-fashioned saga... Brimming with intelligence and sensuality, this is the perfect summer book" (Claire Allfree Metro)

"Heartfelt and acute" (Erica Wagner The Times)

"Dense and intense, highly decorated and richly populated...you wonder at her thirst for reading and knowledge and desire to communicate...[and] her prodigious appetite for storytelling...remarkable, peerless, and wilfully and delightfully and unapologetically intellectual, the kind of writer who makes you marvel at what she manages to put on the page" (Alan Taylor Herald)

Book Description

By the author of the bestselling modern classic Possession, a marvellous, gripping, panoramic novel of family secrets, predators and innocents, war and peace, art and society.

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By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Jun. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Complex and many layered this book concentrates on two families and their friends. Olive is a children's author and lives with her sister Violet, husband Humphrey and their children at a country house called Todefright. They live an apparently idyllic Bohemian existence. Benedict Fludd a genius who makes pots lives, by contrast, in Bohemian squalor with his wife Seraphita and children Imogen, Pomona and Geraint. The families are friends and have friends in common - Prosper Cain, a curator at the new Victoria and Albert museum and his children Julian and Florence, and the Methleys who are very much involved with the Fabian Society and the suffragettes.

The book is about the relationships between these people and others but it is just as much about the age they live in from 1895 to 1919. Historical personages flit into and out of the story. The main characters are inluenced by the morals and manners of the age they live in. The background is lush and decadent as the Victorian age gives way to the Edwardian. Social class is an issue and the Labour movement is gathering supporters.

The relationships between the characters are convoluted and nothing is what it seems. The arts and crafts they produce are rich and somehow redolent of decay. All are affected by the Great War and few come through it unscathed. The writing, as one might expect from this author is at once lush and austere. Characters are taken apart with a scalpel and their thoughts and feelings dissected for our entertainment. Descriptions are full of symbolism and many layered meanings. Conversations are cryptic and issues go unresolved and unmentioned.
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Format: Hardcover
Few books have left me with such mixed reactions. The first half seemed to lack momentum, and it wasn't difficult to pin down why. Too much emphasis on the interior life of the eternally self-absorbed Olive Wellwood and her ceaseless and rather dull fairy tales. Rather too much fanciful description of the artistic impulse and, more specifically, much repetitive detail on pottery making. Plot often played second fiddle to didactic social historical analysis. And with such a large cast of characters, many are given rather short shrift and potentially dramatic situations bypassed in a sentence or two - for instance, Humphry's ongoing affair with Olive's sister, Violet.

By the second half things began to pick up. We leave the older characters behind, which is a blessing since most of them were frankly odious - only Prosper Cain and Anselm Stern offering a counterbalance to the glut of conscienceless, philandering males. As the Victorian era gives way to the Edwardian, we move into a period of restless social change and emerging feminism that gives an added dynamism to the lives of the younger generation, and generally they acquit themselves with far more wisdom and integrity than their parents. Of course, you can see where it's all going to end - in the mud and trenches of the Great War - but this adds poignancy to their youthful idealism and their struggles to establish themselves in a rapidly changing world. History, as we know, is about to overtake them. And the inevitable denouement was indeed moving, with its rash of dreaded letters and longed-for reunions.

Byatt demonstrates many qualities of a great novelist. She is a consummate social historian, and a master of characterisation - you never fail to believe in her creations as real people.
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8 Comments 129 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the first Byatt I've read since her marvellous Possession, and I suppose the first point is that it's not remotely similar, except in terms of weight and intent. Make no mistake. This is not an easy read, and I am used to serious books. Certainly, in the first half of the book I found myself unsure as to why my progress was so slow, despite finding time spent with it richly fascinating, and finding myself at moments bowled over and deeply moved by the psychological perspicacity of her writing. For reasons I cannot give away the momentum somehow leaps forward at around the half way mark, to effect a transition between a richly erudite but somehow uphill beginning to an ending, so compelling, throughout which one's heart is rising ever further into one's mouth.

The book brings vividly to life the years between 1895 to the end of the Great War, which is an era I have had little sympathy with before now. The book is about so many things, following an unusually large numnber of characters, through an intricate maze of plot lines and relationships. It is perhaps this shear ambition that made the earlier parts of the book somehow hard to keep going with and to develop visually in the mind's eye.

Being an aging flower-child myself, trying to hang on to whatever threads of idealism life might deign to leave me with, I find I am ever more fascinated by how the radical impulse has manifested in other times, and I suppose that is a main theme of the book, if there is one. We follow a cast of characters that are focussed with more or less sympathy around a household which is connected to all the multifarious expressions of radicalism as it was in this still so innocent time.
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6 Comments 93 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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