Geoff's Reviews > The Virgin in the Garden

The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt
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's review
Feb 16, 12

Read in February, 2012

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 one under "not my cup of tea." The story sits there, inert, and when it does move it does so slowly. Most of her characters are thoroughly unlikeable, and, what's worst, largely uninteresting. There is a subplot involving a mad teacher and his poor student as they conduct metaphysical experiments which left me unsettled and strongly tempted to skip ahead.

The whole thing feels like walking into an amusement park that's closed for the winter. You look at the rides shuttered away and the boarded-up teacups and think, "Boy, this would be lovely. If only I could be allowed to get on." This will not be my last by Ms. Byatt, but count me disappointed for now.
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