Beverly's Reviews > The Children's Book

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
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Oct 30, 2009

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bookshelves: literary, historical-novel, british
Read in October, 2009

This historical saga spans the years 1895-1919 in England. This is a pivital time, beginning shortly before Victoria's death and through the reign of her libertine son Edward into World War I. The novel is loaded with social history: the rise of socialism, women's suffrage and role, the interest in children's literature, the idea of childhood, the poor, class differences, liberated artists and intellectuals (proto Bloomsbury), references to artists of the day such as H.G. Wells, and Rupert Brooke, and so on and so on.

That is the main problem with this novel. The view of England in this period is not particularly clear or compelling, but she goes on and on with it. The most poignant events happen at the end, in the aftermath of the horrible war.

Otherwise this is a decent saga centering on several interrelated families with focus on their children and what becomes of them in this world. The title comes from the fact that one of the main characters is a successful author of children's books. Her stories parallel events in the lives of the characters. Here too, the author goes overboard, especially with a play that is made of one her stories. The fantasy elements are so detailed. This author doesn't know restraint, which makes it unlikely that I'll read her again.
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