Caroline's Reviews > The Children's Book

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
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's review
May 01, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read in October, 2011

This was a well-wrought historical fiction of families in late Victorian and Edwardian England. The characters are involved with Fabianism and the arts and crafts movement, and the novel well depicts impacts of those movements on the emotional and moral life of the characters. Like pre-Raphaelite art, several of the characters are depicted as simultaneously sensitive, vigorous and corrupt, but objectively so, not with the creepy esthetic admiration for that mix that characterized the age. The story sometimes get close to potboiler territory, with too much transgressive sex to be quite believable, but it's not done in a lurid way. There is a large cast of well-defined characters, and their human individuality gives the story spark and interest, which also is sustained by lots of engaging historical matter, e.g. about the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris (Palace of Electricity, dancer Loïe Fuller, Siegfried Bing's Art Nouveau pavilion), the building of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the English suffragette movment, Peter Pan. I listened to it as an audio book, and that may have ameliorated the great length some reviewers found tedious; listening, I found it a good, long story, interesting at every point and moving well.

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