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Archive: Other Books > The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt

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message 1: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments May decathlon choice: Shortlisted for Man Booker
The Children's book by A.S. Byatt
3 stars
This was my 4th and first successful attempt at reading this book. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I found the first half to be incredibly boring and difficult to read. Why was it difficult? Byatt is essentially writing this book as a way to capture an era and as such it's filled with hundreds of characters, art references, historical events, and more. Because there are so many characters, it made it hard for me to connect to any one character. The second I felt engaged in on story line, Byatt shifted to another storyline and some storylines were only a few paragraphs long.

On the other hand, the book had wonderful moments for me and as much as I felt disconnected from the characters, certain sections brought tears to my eyes. I found parts absolutely enthralling and I didn't want them to end. I also thought it was a clever book in that Byatt does present us with an enormous amount of information about the the era as she follows several families up through the end of WWI.

At the center of the book is the Wellwood family. Olive Wellwood is a writer of children's books. She writes children's fairy tales and has written books for each of her children and as they grow up she continues to write in each of their books. Olive lives with her husband, seven children, her sister, and various household staff. All the other characters are introduced in their connection with the Wellwood family but then their stories take a life of their own and diverge significantly. However, parallels are constantly drawn between Olive's dark fairy tales and the lives of the various characters. The families all have their dark secrets and pretty much every subject is tackled: Victorian banking crisis, relations between England and Germany, women's rights/suffrage, art in all forms, morality, war, identity, etc.

So all in all, a book that I thought was clever and clearly highly researched but inconsistent for me in terms of my own personal enjoyment.

message 2: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 1238 comments Did you read or listen? My library has this on audio- maybe it won't be so boring that way..

message 3: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Tracy wrote: "Did you read or listen? My library has this on audio- maybe it won't be so boring that way.."

I listened. It was better as an audio. Last three times I tried reading it

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