Philip Lane's Reviews > The Children's Book

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
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's review
Apr 25, 2012

really liked it

This is a long book - some 700 pages - and I had a major difficulty in following all the characters. Basically there were too many for me to keep in my head, the book follows at least 5 families, each with multiple children. The basic plot follows these families, who all seem to be liberal and either live in or have summer homes in the country where they pursue interests in arts and crafts. The book starts in late Victorian times in a seemingly Golden Age of plenty and the families are able to support two runaway orphans from working class backgrounds. They enjoy their children's stories, pottery and play acting, create tree-houses and swim naked in ponds.
The children slowly become aware that all is not so rosy - financial difficulties, marital strife, mental breakdown and illegitimacy rear their ugly heads. Their trips onto the continent and their German connections slowly turn sour.
In the last section everything turns grey and leaden as the children turn into young adults who become embroiled in the Great War.
So quite an epic, very well written and intriguing - I would love to be able to have pictures to see some of the pottery that was so central to the book but also an aide memoir to keep a track of the children, their families and relationships. Maybe next time.

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