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The Virgin in the Garden
 
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A.S. Byatt
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The Virgin in the Garden (The Frederica Quartet #1)

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  2,036 ratings  ·  151 reviews
A wonderfully erudite entertainment in which enlightenment and sexuality, Elizabethan drama and contemporary comedy, intersect richly and unpredictably. This tale of a brilliant and eccentric family fatefully divided is sure to please the thousands of readers who made Possession a national bestsellers.
Hardcover, 428 pages
Published by Random House (NY) (first published 1978)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephen
To me, reading Byatt is an event, and this novel is no exception. I've already read, before this one, two of hers: Possession and The Children's Book, both of which I love for the depth of the life portraits, the poetry, the sensual imagery, and the many other elements that are all proof of her literary genius. With this novel, the things that I have come to love from her are hardly visible; it wasn't that there was a lack of intelligence in it, quite the opposite in fact, since half of the nove...more
Susan
If the test of a great novel is that you want to read it again, or pick up the next one (this is the first of a quartet) then this is a good novel. If Still Life—the next title in the quartet—had been right here on the shelf I'd have started it right after I reread the Prologue.

The present time of the novel is 1953, the year of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and, in the world of the novel, of a verse drama about the first Queen Elizabeth enacted on the grounds of an old and elegant estate...more
Geoff
Let me get this out of the way: A.S. Byatt is a great writer. Her prose sparkles with learned intelligence, and her characters are sketched so well they feel like living, breathing people. She is unafraid to mix in literary allusions or linger for extended periods of time over one subject or another. Normally, these are qualities I admire in a novelist, and in a different book (this being my first Byatt), I can easily imagine these qualities working brilliantly in her favor.

However, file this o...more
Siria
I love revisiting Byatt's style, whether re-reading or reading new works for the first time, and The Virgin in the Garden doesn't disappoint. Her work is never light reading, but it is beautifully layered and textured, erudite without being overpowering, funny but never really light-hearted; it's language to lose yourself in.

Frederica is the character who goes on to become central in the later books - hence why this forms the first part of the Frederica quartet - but here she's much more part of...more
Robin
Aug 04, 2007 Robin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who liked Possession
Shelves: cont-fiction
A dear friend recommended this to me since I liked Possession, and I fell for it at first blush. The first of a quartet about, hate to be trite here, but the making of a modern Englishwoman. The way each book treats different aspects of art (theater, painting, etc.) is engaging, as is following this cast of characters through -- what, over a decade? You will know these people inside and out and find yourself loving and yelling at them.
veronica
Dec 11, 2009 veronica rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Only the very patient
The Virgin in the Garden was really painful at times. I seriously skipped entire chunks of pages, skimming quickly, and realizing I wasn't missing anything important. Byatt takes herself so. Damn. Seriously. Some authors, like Melville, are difficult without being a pain in the ass, but Byatt can't pull it off. The overindulgent "I'm so smart" allusions, the needlessly confusing action description... so tiresome. But, pieces of the plot were intriguing, and Byatt made a somewhat respectable atte...more
Jessica
I just re-read this first novel in the Frederica Potter series, and found it even deeper and more impressive than my first reading. It's hard to sum up, but essentially focuses on Frederica at 17, in 1954, the brash, book-loving daughter of a teacher-father with a domineering personality and very firm, progressive ideas. Cast as the young Elizabeth I in an epic drama staged to celebrate Elizabeth II's coronation, Frederica aims to set the world on fire and seduce the playwright, not necessarily...more
Bloodorange
This probably is the best book I will have read this year. This also is my first Byatt, and I love it.

This book is dense - so dense I picked up a few other books as I was reading it, just to convince myself I did not become a slow reader overnight. Byatt manages her subplots and first-person narratives exceedingly well; the only subplot that seems to belong elsewhere is nicely incorporated towards the end.

But the BIGGEST THING about it is how psychologically true it feels(the psycho-plot aside...more
Virginia
I read this, some time in the mid-1990s, plowed my way through it, wishing it were Possession or Angels and Insects, which it wasn't. The remaining pages got thinner and thinner, and I grew concerned about how things would possibly resolve.

I read the final line, and threw the book across the room.

In the mid-aughts, I read this, grumbling aloud the whole way through by how familiar it all seemed, how angry it made me, thought I couldn't remember why.

I read the final line.

I threw the book across t...more
Coleen
5/26/08 - Phew! Difficult read for me, this one was. I haven't read anything quite this "heavy" in a long time. Having not previously read anything else by Byatt (I have Possesion on Mt. TBR), I guess I wasn't quite prepared for the writing style. Indeed -- long, descriptive sentences that went on and on and on. I appreciate good descriptive writing -- I do, but I can only take so much at a time, and thus it took me much longer than expected to get through this book. I found myself skimming thro...more
Ubik 2.0
"La vergine del giardino" (1979), benchè edito in Italia solo nel 2002, è il primo libro di una quadrilogia ["Frederica", dal nome della protagonista] che comprende "Natura morta" (1985), "La torre di Babele" (1996) senza dubbio il migliore dei quattro e "Una donna che fischia" (2001).

Diciassette anni prima di "La Torre di Babele" (e dieci prima del suo capolavoro "Possession") la Byatt non sembra in questo "La vergine del giardino" avere ancora trovato un equilibrio fra la sua erudizione e pass...more
Rowena
Reading A.S. Byatt is a revelation. While this may not be one of her better works, even a sub-par work from Byatt is a grillion times better than the works of other prominent fiction writers today. The Virgin in the Garden tells the story of the Potter family, in particular the youngest daughter Frederica, and a deeply thoughtful playwright who becomes awkwardly enmeshed in the family's affairs. Meanwhile, his play about Elizabeth I (who he seems to have a rather unhealthy obsession with) is bei...more
Karl Steel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susan Levin
I had loved A.S. Byatt's Possession so apparently, I had purchased this book in 1996 and recently, in a longing to purge out books I probably would never read, I came across this book. I decided to read it. Well, I found that although I love the writing style of the author, the style was so dense that I struggled to keep track of what was happening as I was so distracted by the use of language and how it all held together.

I did read the reviews here at Goodreads and have concluded that I wasn't...more
Gail
This novel has forced me to pace myself. Like the other Byatt novels I've read, it demands your full attention. Aspects of it - like the Marcus/Lucas storyline - disturbed, irked, and thrilled me in equal measure. At points I felt Byatt was getting just too clever for her own good, only to be jerked back into complete awe by the adroit way in which she weaves seemingly superficially inconsequential with the deeply profound. What starts off feeling tangential soon becomes integral
Kiki Christie
One of my favourites; an homage to both Shakespeare and D.H. Lawerence.
Kristy
I did not enjoy this book. The symbolism of Elizabeth/Frederica was unbelievably heavy handed and though I liked her character and the relationship between her and Alexander I thought her brother and sister were incredibly uninteresting. I barely skimmed the sections about Lucas and Marcus--it was so obvious where it was going and really hard to care. I wanted to like this more because it had a lot of what I loved about Possession, namely the exegesis of a written work of art as a character reve...more
Holly
Set in 1952-3, this is the story of the Potter family's kaleidoscopic year. The father Bill Potter is eccentric and grossly opinionated and quick to argument although reportedly a great teacher - he heads the Lit. and Phil department. Winifred is his brow-beaten wife, silently catering to her husband's nature. They have two daughters, Stephanie and Frederica, and one son, Marcus. Both girls are highly educated and liberal; Stephanie is beautiful and nurturing; Frederica is high-strung, clever, a...more
Nitya
The characters enjoyable, the story good, but... there is so much static in this book. Which might be great for English lit grads, who can pick up on these nuances or enjoy the critiques and arguments, but not for people like me whose love of books is restricted (more or less) to more modern-day, contemporary classics and have never formally studied literature. And the long, tedious descriptions of mere physical objects; her propensity for lists! Gah. I think this might be the last Byatt I read....more
Chris
This novel, the first in the "Frederica quartet," was much less compelling than Byatt's "Possession." "The Virgin in the Garden" was a novel with some interesting ideas, but it lacked narrative drive. The main drama seemed to involve the question of whether Frederica would lose her virginity with Alexander, which for me was just about as compelling as watching the QVC shopping channel for an hour. Or two.
Stein
A. S. Byatt is an illustrious and much awarded English author. This is the first of her books that I have read and it will also be my last. Byatt loves to write and she comes across as a genius by how much knowledge she can present from multiple fields: literature and theatre, science, culture, history, art, etc. But, if I can allow an analogy, she is like a master chef who skilfully creates a vast diversity of cookery but spoils their palatability by using too many spices and flavours. Her writ...more
Claire Wolff
I love A.S. Byatt, but I finally stopped reading after 140 pages because I just couldn't love this novel. I've read Possession, The Children's Book, Angels and Insects, and her short stories, and adored them all. She creates beautiful, magical, slightly eerie worlds where young women engage with fairy tales against a rural English landscape. There is usually romance, and always literature, poetry, mythology. The Virgin in the Garden has all these pieces: handsome playwright, brilliant youth, dar...more
Bruce
Not as good as Possession, in my opinion, but entertaining nonetheless. I'd like to read the three remaining works in what I believe is a "quartet."
Dawn
Loooooonnnnnnggggeeeeesssstttttt read of my life.
Laura Conrad
I decided to reread this series again -- it's about a family in the "provinces" with a crazy father and a daughter who wants to get away to London. I'm enjoying it. If you aren't interested in that premise, you won't.

An odd thing is that the series has 4 books, of which the second, Still Life, is not published as an ebook, but the others all are. So I dug my dead tree copy out of the bookcase, and will read it in my easy chair in the window, but I don't know why they would do that to me.
Gitte
I really enjoyed reading about these characters. I may not like them all the time, but I always believe in them! They seem so real. It was particularly amusing to encounter Frederica as an annoying teenager - I got to know her as an adult in Babel Tower a couple of years ago and was curious to see what she was like 'before'.

I didn't get all the references, but I've decided it doesn't really matter, as the characters were so passionate about their work and studies that I enjoyed reading about it...more
Danelle
The Virgin In the Garden, is the first book in Byatt's Frederica Quartet and centers around the three Potter children - a brillinatly eccentric family that is entirely incapable of getting along. Now, before you rush out to read this, I feel I must warn you that this is A.S Byatt. This isn't a quick, humorous, read about a silly family. This book is solid erudite, with things that I, at times, found myself googling. The Potter family consists of Bill, the always bickering father; Winifrid, the m...more
Nicole Field
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenny
I found this book pretentious, at least until I got used to the writer's style. The novel takes place in a British academic setting in the 1950s, and it assumes a good working knowledge of Latin, mythology, British history, etc.

After a while, I ceased to be annoyed by obscure references and became interested in the characters. Byatt does a good job of following them around, allowing them their contradictions, depicting their emotional landscapes without explaining too much.

Her characters live...more
Mike
This book took forever to finish. I have no idea why, the dialog was brilliant, Byatt's character development was sound, and the plot interesting. I guess I wasn't in a 1950's-coming-of-age-story sort of mood.

But all that aside, Byatt really has created something special. Yes, part of it is a coming of age story, but it goes beyond that. The characters are so awesomely developed and intertwined that they played off each other so well. And Byatt does such a good job delving into the character's p...more
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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 Babel Tower

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“Lists are a form of power.” 20 likes
“...it is not possible to create the opposite of what one has always known, simply because the opposite is believed to be desired. Human beings need what they already know, even horrors.” 13 likes
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