The Game
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The Game

3.22 of 5 stars 3.22  ·  rating details  ·  661 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Cassandra is an Oxford don; Julia, her sister, a bestselling novelist. They share a set of disturbing memories of a strange childhood game and of Simon, the handsome young neighbour who loved them both. Years later Simon re-enters their lives via a television programme on snakes and intrudes into their uneasy compromise of mutual antagonism and distrust. The old, wild emot...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 27th 1992 by Vintage Books (first published 1967)
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Nikki
I now know why this was one of the few books available on my library's list of downloadable audiobooks.(They work like real books in the library, so you can't check one out that someone else already has.) The synopsis was rather misleading (I thought there would be some fantasy involved, but I never got that far). The characters were disagreeable, and seemed to talk to themselves (in interior dialogue) far more than to each other. I made it through about three chapters before falling asleep. I n...more
Julie
This was a strange and gorgeous book. I love Byatt's writing. I wanted to strangle several of the characters, though. One line in "The Game" became my meditation for the results of the 2010 election: "It is always foolish to care about what one can't help. But unfortunately we never know with any certainty what we can't help. And we are not usually capable of not caring."
Mariam Odent
I was listening to BBC's Open Book podcast on 20th century women's writing and A.S. Byatt's name came up a lot. So I decided to give her a try. As shallow as it sounds, the book cover for this novel was ugly and it screamed "BORING BOOKS YOU READ IN SCHOOL BUT WOULDN'T TOUCH ON YOUR OWN." And I was right. It emcompasses everything I dread about highly regarded writers in its dry metaphors and self-absorbed characters. It was written in the sixties where I guess it was kind of trendy to write abo...more
Isabelle
The subject of this novel is not original: stories of devastating sibling rivalries, principally between sisters, abound in fiction but also in real life. I am myself part of such a story and have been since I was born, it seems. And so is A S Byatt actually!
Regardless, it is not surprising that novelists should be drawn to those complex relationships between girls and eventually women, who are intensely codependent and whose tormented, albeit real, love for each other is not a choice but a gene...more
Bob
A story of a very fraught relationship between two sisters, one an Oxford scholar of a monastic disposition, the other a popular novelist. One imagines Byatt's somewhat famously uncordial relationship with her sister Margaret Drabble is a source for the story, though one hopes it not quite so bad as this makes out. The scholarly sister is named Cassandra - I thought I was being rather clever in connecting this choice with Jane Austen's sister, but the character herself muses upon the parallel ab...more
Jim
Once you’re aware of it it’s impossible to approach this book without assuming that it’s autobiographical, at least in part. Of course there’s a smattering of autobiography in most fiction but when Byatt’s sister read the book she was less than forgiving:
She may not have known what she had done until she had written it. Writers are like that. But it’s a mean-spirited book about sibling rivalry and she sent it to me with a note signed 'With love,’ saying 'I think I owe you an apology’. – ‘Margare
...more
Moira Russell
I sulked terribly after finishing The Shadow of the Sun and had to leave Anna and Henry and Margaret and Caroline (and yes, even Oliver). Just as there is nothing so sweet as getting sucked utterly into a bookworld (surely the Germans have a compound word for that -- Buchwelt? -- ) there is nothing so disheartening as getting kicked out of the unearthly paradise, the little blank page between the last printed one and the back cover like a papery (not flaming!) little sword barring the way back....more
Cmacauley
This is probably the worst book I've ever read, especially disappointing because I heard so much about Possession, highly praised by my friends (although pretty much everyone told me, "I skipped all the poetry."). This badly crafted tale of two sisters' rivalry for the attentions of an arrogant TV star is both irritating and dull, full of overwrought descriptive passages and clumsy attempts to "get into the mind" of the main characters. The plot eventually gets lost in all of the pseudopsycholog...more
Helen Kitson
Simon, with his snakes, is the enduring and uneasy link - even in his long absence - between two sisters, Cassandra the unmarried Oxford don, and Julia, a successful novelist. The game of the title, a game the two sisters played when they were young, is never explained, but is a potent recurring image. As Cassandra notes, "When we were children, we were not quite separate. We shared a common vision, we created a common myth. And this, maybe, contained and resolved our difficulties. This is that...more
Rob
It is the winter of 1963, and when sisters Julia and Cassandra return to Northumberland on the death of their father, they are snowed in. Living once again in such close company, they are forced to re-examine aspects of their childhood, and the causes of the rivalry that has blighted their relationship. Foremost is their relationship with their neighbour, Simon, who is now a leading herpetologist and TV personality. Julia is married to Thor, who retains the Quaker religion that they all once sha...more
lynne naranek
Buoyed by my Fairy Tales class and subsequent introduction to this author, I picked up this book among a choice of many to try A. S. Byatt in a non-fairy tale setting, and for some reason not wanting to go with her main / famous (although I'd never hard of it till a month ago) book "Possession".

So, "The Game" : an absorbing tale that describes to almost too much detail the dysfunctional relationship between two sisters who had relied on imagination in their childhood, and seemed slaves to it eve...more
nadjadenada
In multiple reader reviews, this early Byatt novel has been unfavorably compared to "Possession" by readers who found Byatt through that novel. I'm among these readers who adored "Possession," but I disagree that this early work is flat in comparison. I found both of the sisters portrayed here both sympathetic and real, and found myself (unfortunately) identifying with each of them. Admittedly, the majority of readers may not share this identification.
Both characters (who, it must be admitted,...more
Diana
I was not as engrossed by this early novel of Byatt's as I was of her later Possession, which I loved. I found the style in this book a bit overwrought - lots of embedded clauses that interrupted the flow of the story, leading to some frustration in following the overall plot of the story. I also found the unfolding of the plot confusing, ambiguous, and, frankly, I found all of the main characters unlikable, unsympathetic. I found I really didn't care what happened to these characters. I have to...more
Hans Thyssen
But why?

Why is this book called The Game?

There is a game the two sisters played as children, and this game is still important in their later lives. I also know that the one sister needs the other one to weave a web, and that snakes always try to deceive women, but which man is the snake? I further know biting a apple isn't always biting an apple and that bananas often represent something that isn't a fruit.

Byatt seems to love the romantic poets. Nobody can blame her for that, but in this novel...more
Kate
This is the first book I've read by A.S. Byatt, and I can't wait to read more. I love her inter-textuality and the magical way she combines metaphors and associations to convey her characters' experiences of the world. I found a lot of 'truthful dialogue' in this book; words that really struck at me. Her characters in this book are entangled in the over-reflexive worlds of literature academia, metaphor and writing, where they are being tugged between significance and insignificance.

My favourite...more
Mckinley
One of the worst books I've ever read. Had trouble following characters and even being interested in what was happening to them.

I was intrigued by the idea of this book. As girls, Cassandra and Julie created a game based on an alternative world of Arthurian romance. Estranged as adults, they are reunited at the death of their father. At the same time a man they both loved returns to their lives.

There were several lovely passages but overall I thought the plot was difficult to follow. The charact...more
Lynne
At the very least, this novel establishes a literary type similar to the Eddie character in Elizabeth Bowen's "The Death of the Heart." Both are young men who do not care about the young women who idolize them.
Lorie Owens
Delightful audio version provides verisimilitude in accents, but the main characters nonetheless soar headlong toward their own destruction ... Once there, it is the reader who feels annihilated.
A.V.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lo
Typical A.S. Byatt book - eloquent, passionate, but a little tedious and contrived. The typical three start review also applies.
Ruth
I do not remember reading this, and my notes do not help to jar my memory: As usual, questing, questioning, disconcerting, impelling.
Jim
All the ins and outs of rivalry between two sisters that began when they were youngsters. One of the sisters, a novelist, is bent on repairing the relationship at the same time she is practically ignoring her Quaker husband and from time to time having somewhat tenuous contacts with three very different men. The more thoughtful sister, a don at Oxford, seeks solitude, is ambivalent about relationships in general. Byatt has put together another very thoughtful book. I didn't mind at all that afte...more
Rebecca
I almost didn't finish this book, and it took me two weeks to get through it, which is kind of unheard of in my reading history. I always finish a book, even if I hate it, and usually in less than three days for fiction. I didn't hate this book, but I had a really hard time losing myself in it... and that's why I read in the first place, immersion into another world, another person. I'm not sure whether the fault is with me or the book. I really enjoyed a couple of Byatt's other books, which is...more
Susan
Good, but meh. Byatt's characters routinely quoting Coleridge and falling passionately over abstract thought made more sense when it was delivered by literary scholars in Possession. True, this book focuses on a medieval scholar and a contemporary author, but it's still far-fetched and was hard to follow sometimes. Some things were inexplicable, like Cassandra's immense fear. Did I skip a page? I'm not giving this a lower rating because it was still a compelling read, especially when the messy h...more
Nancy Dardarian
A real good read, very intimate look at two sisters and the rivalry born in childhood stayed with them into adulthood.
Anna
Byatt is always a bit difficult to follow late at night, which is when I tend to finish her books, caught up in the drive for the end, what happens what happens whathappens. She's a bit of a challenge for me, really; religion, intellectualism, literature, and science blend beautifully into psychological drama that does not end happily. Her conclusions follow with a strong inevitability, however, to which the reader bows with a sigh: it couldn't have gone any other way.
Keith
while it isn't my favorite Byatt, it is very readable and interesting. Having read the majority of her books, you can tell that this is an early novel of hers. Very well written (like all of her material) and it shows the beginning of some of the themes that appear in her novels.

If you are a fan of Byatt - then don't hesitate to read it. If you aren't - it may be a good place to start, though I still think that Possession is the best way to start.
Ann
There is very little about The Game in the book, and only slightly more about the sisters' childhoods. I'm usually not bothered by gaps in exposition, but there wasn't enough for me to go on to really care much about the characters at any age until late in the book. The extended discussions of Christianity didn't really do it for me either, despite having decent familiarity with dogma generally and Quakers specifically.
Sarah
i'm realizing that i have kind of a love/hate relationship with a. s. byatt. her books are undeniably interesting, even fascinating to me, but at the same time, reading one can be like having a conversation with someone i can't stand. this one was good in the usual way, but the narrative didn't quite fulfill my expectations--it was no "possession."
Chris Eley
Couldn't engage with any of the characters. I suppose it is an interesting study of how stifling things were in late 50s, early 60s. Major topic of discussion at our book group was how this relates to the Byatt/Drabble tea service feud. Found Cassandra bonkers, Julia selfish & Thor insufferable. Did enjoy the hideous Oxford dinner party though.
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A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize-winning Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s E...more
More about A.S. Byatt...
Possession The Children's Book Angels and Insects The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye The Virgin in the Garden

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“He had said she was provocative; so she was, she needed to prove she was there to be seen; but the proof always, contradictorily, drove her to further uncertain agony of guilt and self-distaste.” 5 likes
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