Alison's Reviews > The Children's Book

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
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's review
Aug 24, 2010

it was amazing
Read from August 24 to 26, 2010

How can I not love a book about the V&A, ceramics, the writing life, and the Victorian social reform and aesthetic movements? This is Byatt in top form, with what I think is her best book since (here I’m invoking her chronology in writing, not mine in reading) 1992’s Angels & Insects. (Which is not to say that I didn’t read her collections of tales with immense pleasure, or the last two volumes of the quartet in a white heat of agony, suspense, and fulfillment.) This is a perfectly beguiling exploration of Victorian progressives’ invention and embrace of a modernity which they constructed, in part, out of nostalgia for the “primitive,” the “natural,” and the “childish.” Read on the heels of A Whistling Woman, it’s obvious that this dream of modernity is a recurrent one, and that the nostalgia recurs, too. Watch Byatt evoke To the Lighthouse, Smiles of a Summer Night, Das Rheingold, The Princess and the Goblin, and every creepy thing that’s ever been thought about marionettes–and then send Emma Goldman and Oscar Wilde strolling in–and swoon, swoon, swoon.
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Thank very much!
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