Natura morta
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Natura morta (The Frederica Quartet #2)

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,553 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Seguito della Vergine nel giardino e precursore della Torre di Babele, questo romanzo racconta i progetti, gli incontri, l'educazione sentimentale di Frederica Potter, quando la protagonista della saga di A. S. Byatt era studentessa all'Università di Cambridge negli anni Cinquanta. Frederica ha rinunciato al teatro e inizia ad appassionarsi alla pittura. La figura di Van G...more
Paperback, ET Scrittori, 402 pages
Published 2005 by Einaudi (first published 1985)
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Apr 25, 2011 Joel marked it as to-not-read-ever  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not a book club
Recommended to Joel by: book club dictator
The organizer of the book club I'd recently joined chose this for the group to read, citing it as one of her favorite novels read during the one year of an aborted Master's in literature that she managed to bring up at least twice per meeting.

I got this book out of the library. A few days later, I quit the book club. A few weeks later, the book club disbanded.

Just saying.
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The length of this novel is not one of its virtues. Narrative flourish and verbal excess wage a constant battle with the reading mind. I'm tempted to speak of Proust, whose 'lost time' seems to offer itself as a key source of Byatt's anxiety of influence. Or Van Gogh, whose canvases haunt Byatt's imagination and prick the eyes of our memory, withdrawing their meaning into the lushness of words. Or, indeed, the metafictional passages of authorial self-reflection - unnecessary and tedious, for the...more
Why is Possession so delightful and full of movement, when so many of Byatt's other books are depressing, disturbing, and slow? I have not quite finished this yet, but I keep wondering - when does something happen? When do I get to care about the characters?

Still, it's not entirely without merit - the family dynamic between the Potter and Orton sides of the family is beautifully drawn, as are some lovely questions about the nature of color and its relationship to art. But I expected to be wowed...more
Does this woman not have any humor? I think I'm finished with my enthusiasm for her lovely writing as she digresses into too many examinations of conversations/interests of the university students that are a yawn. The focus of this book seemed to me to be how women deal with their intelligence and life of the mind while tending to family, and job, always a complicated dance. The continuing observations of the effect of light, science of light, light in particular in Van Gogh's paintings were mos...more
Not quite as strong as The Virgin in the Garden, but not-quite-as-strong Byatt still outranks most authors at full strength, in my book. Stephanie's storyline was the most compelling for me, as she searches for her sense of self after leaving a world of letters for the role of mother and clergy wife. Alexander seems to be included mostly for thematic purposes, at this point - the comparative ease with which he is able to pursue his art and compartmentalize his personal life is striking. Frederic...more
"...our own irredeemable sexuality is disputable. (Iredeemable is a word from quite a different intellectual revolution, a much earlier one, now only intermittently recognized or acted on.)"

"Thinking-run of the mill- thinking."

No run of the mill thinking here. However, I am writing this just after finishing Rouaud's Fields of Glory and that makes Still Life's high brow prose seem almost silly. What is this about, under all that learned musing, beneath the narrator's Master of Lazarus intruding a...more
Paul Dinger
This is a very fit title for this book. It isn't really a sequel as much as a continuation. It now contrasts the artist Van Gogh's failed relationships with those of the book. We can see the bumps ahead for Federica, we can see how unconnected Marcus is. The death at the center throws everything into relief. A Still Life is a painting where the artist tries to show as much of real life as possible while still being an artist. In other words, control life as an artist. But life, as this book says...more
Jennifer Orr
Byatt is my all-time favorite author. Not done with this one yet, but can tell this will be another favorite, up there with "Virgin in the Garden" and "Possession." Frederica returns from "Virgin" and is now established as my favorite character ever. I'm particularly loving "Still Life" because of Byatt's questioning of whether language is even adequate enough to depict our tangible world. Yet we treat it as an absolute. The Van Goghs, the ants (wouldn't be a Byatt book without some exploration...more
Still Life picks up right where The Virgin In the Garden left off. Frederica is graduating, Stephanie and Daniel are expecting a baby, and Marcus, after his breakdown has moved in with Stephanie and Daniel (and Daniel's mum).

Frederica pursues academics, amongst other things, at Cambridge. She wants to work with those men of great minds and be looked upon as a great mind along with them but finds that as a woman she is still limited. Stephanie is wholly occupied with being a mother and helping D...more
From other reviews I've read on here, people think that anything after The Virgin in the Garden A Novel is all downhill. After reading Still Life, I'm unfortunately inclined to agree.

The narration is as pretentious as ever. Before it was easier to ignore or completely disregard references, if your like me, and have never read Proust or Woodsworth. But part of the essence of the series it seems is the characters drive to continue to grow intellectually. It gets old quick as they go on page after...more
Definitely well written but it came across as verbose and pretentious.
It read as if the author wanted to show off her Cambridge education with various references to authors and artists such as D H Lawrence and Vincent Van Gogh on whose life she concentrates a fair bit, even making him the subject of a play that one of the characters in the book is writing. The main theme of the novel seems to be the contrasting lives of two sisters, Stephanie who has deserted academia in favour of domesticity an...more
Dan Crews
I am going backwards. I read Babel Tower first not knowing that these books are apart of a quartet: Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower, A Whistling Woman. Babel is a greater and more diverse book with many more subplots. If I remember correctly 4 narratives in one. But what is very good about this book is that Frederica, the supposed main character, is only one of many interesting characters. They all play off one another and are closely tied to one another. Each is on there own plot...more
This was definitely the best book in the Francesca Chronicles. I read Virgin in the Garden quite a while back and had been wanting to get my hands on this book for a long time.

I was available on book sites, but the price was forbidding. I managed to get Babel Tower in the 2nd Hand market. As we know, books there are found by serendipity, not design.

Still Life is about Francesca's time in Cambridge. It was during the mid fifties. The time was exciting for an intelligent woman with a mind of her o...more
Courtney Johnston
Reading through the reviews on goodreads, I'm interested by how much this book divides readers. (My favourite comment, by the way, was the person who described it as a 'perfect gift for an expectant woman'. In the book, there are three mothers: Daniel's mother, a ghastly, needy woman, about as welcome in the house as cancer; lost lonely frozen Winifred, who can't relate to any of her three children; and Stephanie, 'sunk in biology', struggling to keep her intellect alive as it drowns in the swam...more
The second entry in 'The Frederica Quartet' seems somehow more relevantly narrated under that name; in other words, Frederica becomes, if not the central figure of the novel, at least the most fleshed out and compelling, to my mind. The other Potters-Stephanie and Marcus-as well as Daniel and Alexander remain integral to the familial drama that began in The Virgin in the Garden, though I felt these characters seemed to expand outward rather than develop in particularly new directions.

Stephanie a...more
A. S. Byatt is one of those vintage authors who gets better and better with each of their books. In this earlier works, I feel partly disconcerted, and delighted for finding out some of the sources which she later used in Possession and The Children's book. The mention and description of the Boggle Hole is just one example.
The plot itself is not very cohesive. At least, one cannot make a coherent summary of it unless one reads it through, after The Virgin in the Garden. She said: "This is a boo...more
A. S. Byatt write gorgeous, thoroughly uncomfortable novels that I feel unable to review. There is a lot going on in this book about art, including the inherent limitedness of any artistic depiction and the arrogant, human desire to categorize and describe the world. Most of that went over my head, though, and, instead, it was the conflict women face between family and career that drew me in. I sympathized strongly between both Frederica and Stephanie and the inability of either of them balance...more
I didn't realize this book was the second in a series until I was halfway through it. Perhaps I should have read the first book first. Parts of this were fantastic stories with great characters - Frederica is at the cusp of the sexual revolution and one of the few females at Cambridge, figuring herself out. Stephanie has pushed aside her Cambridge education and is dealing with domesticity only to be forced to deal with the family psychological outcasts. The minor characters develop too and becom...more
A well written and rather highbrow book which should appeal to english language/literature students and anyone interested in writing and linguistics. Unfortunately I didn't find the book to be one of those that you can't put down. However, I wanted to plough through it and I thought it a good book. I couldn't quite get the link/connection between the leading characters and Van Gogh, it didn't quite gel. I found the jumping from character and situation within each chapter a distraction and at one...more
For the record, I love A.S. Byatt. And I'm a firm believer of reading several books by the same author to get a feel for their style.

I was hoping that if I read this book soon after "The Virgin in the Garden" it would go better. But it didn't. While I felt slightly more invested in the characters, there was nothing that made me need to turn the page. I don't really like Frederica. She's just... I don't know what it is, but I can't bring myself to like her.

And this needs to be said. I hate it i...more
Nov 23, 2007 Joy is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: artists, academics, philosophical types
I'm beginning to get that A.S. Byatt's books are generally odd. Instead of including only the story of what her characters are doing, she also includes some characters' intellectual preoccupations. Interesting, she includes Stephanie's intellectual preoccupation with Wordsworth, though Stephanie left the academy to marry and have a child. She also includes playwright Alexander's intellectual and creative preoccupation with Van Gogh (a lot more of this). But the intellectual preoccupations of the...more
Wow, I liked this a *lot* better than The Virgin in the Garden. All characters, but especially Frederica and Daniel, seemed more likeable and more *interesting* to me. I was surprised to find that I did continue liking Andrew as well as occasionally wishing to give him a kick up the pants. The changes in Winifred and Bill were very well handled and hit close to home, for various reasons.

My chief regret is that Marcus didn't have more cause to interact with the babies. He LIKED the thought that h...more
Just re-read this second Frederica Potter book, in which Frederica, newly liberated of her virginity, goes to Cambridge to have the life of the mind and the life of men that she'd so desired back in school. Her sister, Stephanie, is pregnant with her first child. Their brother Marcus seems deeply damaged by a breakdown. And Alexander Wedderburn, the brilliant scholar and playwright of Frederica's prior obsession, is noodling away on a play about Vincent Van Gogh.

Byatt's weaving of Vincent's colo...more
Penny Kent
Very hard read and had to stop and start. Didn't know it was a #2 when I started. Deals with big questions, but she often gets distracted. Still thinking about the characters tho. Was impressed with Iris Murdoch endorsement on cover.
Laura Conrad
Unlike the other books in the series, this one has a different publisher, who hasn't put it in ebook format, so it took me a while to get around to rereading it as a dead tree book. But I'm glad I did, if only because

[spoiler alert]

it partially explained why I was so uncomfortable when I had a bird in my bedroom last spring.

Anyway, it's the series rather than the individual books I like so much, but this is the one where Frederica is in college, and it's a good depiction of that experience.
I don't think I realized this was 2/4 when I started it. Nor does it encourage me to want to read the other 3. This book is really well written, very cerebral, laced with educational bits about things I'm not well-versed in, and overall, not so terribly engaging until the last 50 pages. Thus, it took me a month to read it.

On the other hand, it's a book about intelligent people struggling with being cerebral, with doubt, and love, and religion, and feminism in its practical elements. Which is be...more
I love how A.S. Byatt loops around and around and around her stories, coming back to themes and ideas--and the lives of ants--somehow originally. I suppose I should go and find the first book in the Frederica Q.
This was a strange book. Nowhere near as brilliant as Possession, but interesting in its own right. I enjoyed the descriptions of human experience. Every now and then I came across something I hadn't ever heard described so well. Also, every now and then the author spoke up and talked about what she was trying to do with her book and what was and wasn't working, which was extremely weird. I don't like books written with some kind of gimmick or experimental approach, and I felt like this one comp...more
I enjoyed this book, though others in my book group did not. I had to push myself to keep going at times - the story unfolds backwards, and keeping track of the characters is challenging, and the dialogue is thick with references. Much of the novel takes place in Oxford, and the author is compelled to do a lot of intellectual showing off. Fun Fact. A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble are sisters who do not get along, and who apparently have not spoken in years. One wonders if the sisters in the nove...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 The Virgin in the Garden

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“She was looking for a husband, partly because she was afraid no one might want her, partly because
she couldn't decide what to do with herself until that problem was solved, partly because everyone else was looking for a husband.”
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