I enjoyed this, as I do all of Brooks' writing. Although a little slow to start, it was engrossing. A little strange, that while I was reading it, I tI enjoyed this, as I do all of Brooks' writing. Although a little slow to start, it was engrossing. A little strange, that while I was reading it, I thought it was great - but once I finished, thinking back on the book, I realized that the characters were not very well-formed. Caleb's character is stronger in the beginning, but once he moves into the Mayfield house there just isn't much there. Definitely a great historical read, especially for Brooks fans (I absolutely love the way she can take a little piece of historical info, and build such wonderful stories around it), but missing that something that her earlier works had....more
Fantastic - this is one of those books that people have been telling me I'd love for a long time, and for some reason or another I just never got to.Fantastic - this is one of those books that people have been telling me I'd love for a long time, and for some reason or another I just never got to. So glad I did! The perfect book to lose yourself in....more
I haven't read much Byatt since I finished my thesis last spring, and I didn't realize how much I missed her writing. This was somewhat different (forI haven't read much Byatt since I finished my thesis last spring, and I didn't realize how much I missed her writing. This was somewhat different (for me, at least) from her other works that I've read, in a way I can't quite put my finger on. It spans social and political changes over a rather large period of time, centering primarily on the Wellwood family and others that have entered their social circles at some point or another. The large cast of characters could make it a bit difficult to remember who was who at some points, but overall I think I enjoyed all of them - they all had their roles to play in the big picture.
Now, my thesis was on her use of fairy tales and fairy tale elements - if she's written this novel a few years ago, I probably could have centered the whole thesis on it! Fairy tales are vital to this story. Olive Wellwood is a writer of children's stories in Victorian (and later, Edwardian) England, and her fairy stories and themes almost define her family.
I especially loved her portrayal of women in this novel. Olive's children (and their childhood playmates) are growing up in a time when it is becoming accepted for "respectable" women to hold "real" jobs - but often at the cost of any romantic desires or chances of marriage. Dorothy (who wants to pursue the career of a doctor/surgeon) is perhaps the most affected by the double standard, observing that although there are female doctors with husbands, those are few and far between. Griselda and Florence grapple with this decision as well. One can pursue a career, but by the time her studies are through in her late 20's, she would would be considered something of an old maid. One of my favorite passages in the novel that sums this struggle up nicely comes on page 495:
Florence was in a turmoil. She had promised herself to Geraint, and she was now promising herself to years of study. She did not think Newnham College would care for married students. She wished to disturb her father, at some ferocious girlish level, and felt - she was not really thinking - that the engagement would do that. And yet - like Griselda, she did want to think. And she did see her future as, perhaps, the choice between thinking and sex."
Byatt has always done a wonderful job of exploring the roles that women play in various situations, past and present. This novel is no exception. ...more
When I read the first two chapters of this book I was blown away. The first is absolutely hysterical, and the second begins that way, but leaves you sWhen I read the first two chapters of this book I was blown away. The first is absolutely hysterical, and the second begins that way, but leaves you staring at the book in disbelief, unsure what to make of what just happened. I couldn't wait to read the rest, but I have to say that I was a little disappointed. While each story is very clever, and the connections that run through the book are fun to find, I found myself getting a little bored. The chapter titled "The Mountain" seemed to go on for much too long, and wasn't as witty as the others. Nonetheless, I think this one is definitely worth reading. Even if it does become a bit slow in places, I can't argue with the mastery of Barnes in connecting all of these seemingly unconnected chapters, and in his ability to really make you think about the world around you....more