Margaret's Reviews > The Children's Book

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
162759
's review
Oct 14, 09

bookshelves: arc, historical-fiction, authors-ab
Read in September, 2009, read count: 1

I adore Possession, but since I have never found another Byatt I've loved nearly so much, I was a little anxious upon beginning The Children's Book. Happily, I was enthralled right from the start.

The Children's Book is a sprawling, absorbing family epic, stretching from the late Victorian era through the Edwardian and ending just after World War I. Olive Wellwood is a children's book author who lives with her husband Augustus and their seven children at their beautiful country home, the center of an enchanted circle of friends and family, artists and craftsmen, writers and actors. Yet as the years go by, the enchanted circle begins to break up under the stress of secrets and betrayals, until the final devastations of World War I.

Olive writes fantastic tales not only for publication, but also individual stories for each child. As with Possession, Byatt weaves pieces of these and of Olive's other writings into the narrative, along with bits of letters and other documents which enhance the story and add layers to the plot and especially to the characterization. Byatt also focuses intensely on the Arts and Crafts movement and the details of the crafts -- largely pottery and puppetry -- which I found fascinating. I can see how it might be simply too much detail for some, but I generally love that sort of thing and was never bored by it.

I'm hardly an expert on this period, but the historical background seemed very well done to me, especially the slow change from the late Victorian era through the Edwardian and into World War I. I did feel that the World War I section got rather short shrift compared to the rest of the book, although thinking about it, this seems rather fitting; perhaps Byatt is mimicking the way in which the war brought a sudden end to the glories of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

It's a long, rich book, and I'm rather looking forward to rereading it, as I'm sure I'll pick up much more a second time through.
4 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Children's Book.
sign in »

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

message 1: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell I am going to read this too! ....after I finish the first two vol of the Quartet. CANNOT WAIT.


Margaret Moira wrote: "I am going to read this too! ....after I finish the first two vol of the Quartet. CANNOT WAIT."

I got an ARC from Amazon in the mail today -- it's ginormous! I have Saturday evening off from child and husband and am looking forward to immersing myself in it.


message 3: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Margaret wrote: "I got an ARC from Amazon in the mail today -- it's ginormous! I have Saturday evening off from child and husband and am looking forward to immersing myself in it."

We should swap opinions after we both finish it! That could be fun. But really, already, with the GORGEOUS cover art (holy shit) and WWI and Victorian children's lit and God knows what else I am primed to love it.


message 4: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell FINALLY starting to read this. Hah!

....a little dubious if it's going to have Byatt's typical "writing is bad for children and other living things" anti-writing-mothers spin, tho. That's one of the few things I just really dislike in her books.


back to top