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The Children's Book
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By the author of Possession, a marvellous, gripping, panoramic novel of family secrets, about predators and innocents, war and peace, art and society.

About the Author

A.S. Byatt is internationally acclaimed as a novelist, short story-writer and critic. Her books include Possession (winner of the Booker Prize in 1990), and the quartet of The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman. Educated at York and Newnham College, Cambridge, she taught at the Central School of Art and Design, and was Senior Lecturer in English at University College, London, before becoming a full-time writer in 1983. She was appointed CBE in 1990 and DBE in 1999.

Reviews

A girl places some diminutive folk she's discovered into her doll house, then is imprisoned by a giant child herself. A prince discovers that he alone has no shadow. No, these aren't plot points in this masterly new work by the author of Possession but children's stories written by one of its protagonists, Olive Wellwood. There are, or course, actual children in the book-Olive's, with blustery banker-turned-crusader husband Humphrey; the Wellwood cousins; Julian, son of a keeper at the South Kensington Museum; Philip, the wayward boy discovered living surreptitiously in the museum, whom Olive brings home to her country estate; the family of brilliant but selfish master potter Benedict Fludd, who takes in the talented Philip as an unpaid apprentice; and more. Like the children in Olive's stories, these children have their notions quietly disabused; one small instant-say, a parent's overheard comment-and life is changed forever. It's the late 1800s, with new ideas in the air-and it's all rushing toward World War I. Verdict Pitch perfect, stately, told with breathtakingly matter-of-fact acuteness, this is another winner for Byatt. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/09.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"Intricately worked and sumptuously inlaid novel...seethes and pulses with an entangled life, of the mind and the senses alike. Colour and sensation flood Byatt's writing...she is a master-potter, or magic-working puppeteer" -- Boyd Tonkin * Independent *
"Superlatively displays both enormous reach and tremendous grip...sizzling with ideas and alive with imaginative energy, too...this is the most stirring novel AS Byatt has written since Possession" * Sunday Times *
"It's success is as a novel of ideas, forcefully and often memorably expressed, while the story follows darkening fortunes into a chastened postwar world" -- Helen Dunmore * The Times *
"Compelling...strenuously inclusive and also tremendously enriching - an intricate tale, energetically fashioned from sturdy strands of material, by "a spinning fairy in the attic", an indefatigable storyteller" * Irish Times *
"Astonishing power and resonance" -- Jane Shilling * Sunday Telegraph *
"More than a novel, this is a historical primer, discursive, shimmering with colour and texture, containing stories within stories and giving walk-on parts to luminaries of the age... For fans of Byatt this is better than Possession. A truly great novel" * Daily Express *
"Light and lustrous, commanding and transporting, The Children's Book is superb" * Daily Mail *

Byatt's overstuffed latest wanders from Victorian 1895 through the end of WWI, alighting on subjects as diverse as puppetry, socialism, women's suffrage and the Boer War, and suffers from an unaccountably large cast. The narrative centers on two deeply troubled families of the British artistic intelligentsia: the Fludds and the Wellwoods. Olive Wellwood, the matriarch, is an author of children's books, and their darkness hints at hidden family miseries. The Fludds' secrets are never completely exposed, but the suicidal fits of the father, a celebrated potter, and the disengaged sadness of the mother and children add up to a chilling family history. Byatt's interest in these artists lies with the pain their work indirectly causes their loved ones and the darkness their creations conceal and reveal. The other strongest thread in the story is sex; though the characters' social consciences tend toward the progressive, each of the characters' liaisons are damaging, turning high-minded talk into sinister predation. The novel's moments of magic and humanity, malignant as they may be, are too often interrupted by information dumps that show off Byatt's extensive research. Buried somewhere in here is a fine novel. (Oct.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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