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The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt

The Children's Book (edition 2010)

by A.S. Byatt

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,8601662,024 (3.85)1 / 550
Recently added byFloratina, private library, jjames2342, sandrikoti, reverie_alone, pprocko115, shrutipoonia
  1. 71
    The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (rbtanger)
    rbtanger: Similar in time frame to The Children's Book, but with a much more satisfactory central mystery and ending. Also contains a fairy-tale authoress and several inserted "tales".
  2. 60
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  3. 50
    War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (WoodsieGirl)
    WoodsieGirl: The more I read of The Children's Book, the more it reminded me of War and Peace - the same juxtaposition of small-scale, human dramas against the sweep of history, and the same knack for introducing characters as children who are recognisably the same people as the adults at the end of the book.… (more)
  4. 10
    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (kiwiflowa)
  5. 10
    Sugar and Other Stories by A. S. Byatt (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: The genesis of "The Children's Book" can be seen in the short story, "The Changeling".
  6. 00
    The Lake House by Kate Morton (kethorn23)
  7. 00
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Crypto-Willobie)
  8. 00
    Little, Big by John Crowley (Crypto-Willobie)
  9. 00
    The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey (JoEnglish)
  10. 00
    Tempest-Tost by Robertson Davies (Cecilturtle)
  11. 24
    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (kidzdoc)

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English (157)  Dutch (4)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (167)
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
I was talking to someone very recently about the whole "which sister is a better writer" question when it comes to A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble. I said that I very much disliked the single book I've read by Drabble so I was going to come down on Byatt's side, even though I hadn't read anything by her. Now that I've read Byatt's wonder novel "The Children's Book" I can say I came down on the side of the correct sister.

"The Children's Book" tells a great story. It's about several loosely connected families and the secrets they keep. It's about how growing up in incredibly creative families seems like such fun from the outside, but isn't so much fun if you're living it. It's about the changing times from Victorian England to the devastation brought by World War I.

Byatt packs a lot into this novel, which can only be described as sprawling. As the story goes, it pulls you deeper and deeper into the dynamics of the families, which are populated by interesting people. I look forward to reading more by Byatt, for sure. ( )
  amerynth | May 3, 2016 |
An excellent intricate and challenging read. ( )
  BridgitDavis | Apr 22, 2016 |
Need a new category for "tried to read it but couldn't". Attempted listening to the CD version of the book. I took it on a trip and was really looking forward to it, but it was just too darned S-L-O-W with too many weighty descriptions, not interesting enough to keep my attention. Too many other books to read to justify taking the time to slog through something that doesn't suit my tastes. ( )
  KylaS | Feb 18, 2016 |
This might qualify for a spoiler - if someone reads it and thinks I should hide it, please message me. I don't think I am being that specific. This is really a 2.5...I have a hard time going under a 3 on my stars unless I really dislike something, and if I finish 24 cd's, then I didn't hate it. There are three parts to this book as I see it. The story of the actual characters, the history that appears at the beginning of some of the chapters, and the pieces of fairy tales written by the matriarch of the book. In reverse order, the fairy tales were interesting, and more of it would have been fine. Learning how the tale written for Dorothy mimicked events that occurred in real life at the time of her conception was well done. The history was interesting, I decided the next big achievement in publishing/electronics would be for there to be a way for me to pull out all of those parts and let me read them together. It was a little hard to follow it in the audio version - if I had it in preint I would have gone back over some parts. And for the actual characters...it occurred to me while listening to this that I tend to view all historical fiction as representative of the reality of that time. I think the better way would be to think the story may not be representative, but the context should be. In this case, if the story was totally representative of the time, once could conclude that middle-aged English males of this time period are predominantly adulterous, lecherous or incestuous, depending on their family constellation. There was hardly a decent one among them. And educational institutions for males are abusive hotbeds for breeding homosexuality. The women were presented largely as a variety of extremes, from bright and driven, to abused and in denial.I hope that the lives of most English families were NOT like this. While there were people that were likeable, the ravages of WWI, which I did assume to be fairly accurate, left everyone pretty much a shambles if they manages to survive at all. If you don't deal well with lots of death and sadness, this may not be for you. ( )
  MaureenCean | Feb 2, 2016 |
Finishing this was a feat since it is very long but I believe it is the best book that I've read by Byatt. ( )
  cygnet81 | Jan 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
The novel has a tendency to sprawl, with too many characters and too much to say. Yet Byatt takes tender care with the reader. She is a careful guide, and though this entry is at times a lot to process, it’s a worthwhile journey.
While Byatt’s engagement with the period’s over­lapping circles of artists and reformers is serious and deep, so much is stuffed into “The Children’s Book” that it can be hard to see the magic forest for all the historical lumber — let alone the light at the end of the narrative tunnel. The action is sometimes cut off at awkward moments by ponderous newsreel-style voice-over or potted lectures in cultural history. Startling revelations are dropped in almost nonchalantly and not picked up again until dozens or even hundreds of pages later. Byatt’s coda on the Great War, dispatched in scarcely more pages than the Exposition Universelle, is devastating in its restraint. But too often readers may feel as if they’re marooned in the back galleries of a museum with a frighteningly energetic docent.
Byatt’s characters are themselves her dutiful puppets, always squeezed and shaped for available meaning. The Children’s Book has a cumulative energy and intelligence, and the unavoidable scythe of the Great War brings its own power to the narration, but nowhere in its hundreds of pages is there a single moment like the Countess Rostova’s free and mysterious irritation.
added by jburlinson | editLondon Review of Books, James Wood (pay site) (Oct 8, 2009)
As in her Booker Prize–winning novel, Possession, here Byatt has constructed a complete and complex world, a gorgeous bolt of fiction, in this case pinned to British events and characters from the 1870s to the end of the Great War...the magic is in the way Byatt suffuses her novel with details, from the shimmery sets of a marionette show to clay mixtures and pottery glazes.
added by Shortride | editThe Atlantic (Oct 1, 2009)
It begins with the discovery of a boy hiding in a museum.

The time is 1895, the boy is Philip Warren, and the museum is the precursor to the Victoria & Albert: the South Kensington Museum. And, oh, yes –there’s a remarkable piece of art that the boy is besotted with — the Gloucester Candlestick. However, while this may make many children’s book mavens think immediately of E. L. Konigsburg’s classical story for children, let me say straight out — A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book is a book for grown-ups. It is emphatically not a children’s book although it is about children, about books, about art, about the writing of children’s books, about the telling of children’s stories, about the clash between life and art, and about a whole lot more. A saga of a book teeming with complex characters, fascinating settings, intellectual provocations, and erudite prose, it gets under your skin as you get deeper and deeper into it and won’t let you go even after you reach the last page....

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Byatt, A. S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
McKenzie, NicoletteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, StephenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Two boys stood in the Prince Consort Gallery, and looked down on a third. It was June 19th, 1895.
"So dangerous, don't you think, giving romantic names to little scraps who may grow up as plain as doorposts."
She didn't like to be talked about. Equally, she didn't like NOT to be talked about, when the high-minded chatter rushed on as though she wasn't there. There was no pleasing her, in fact. She had the grace, even at eleven, to know there was no pleasing her. She thought a lot, analytically, about other people's feelings, and had only just begun to realise that this was not usual, and not reciprocated.
She was not really a playwright. The auditions taught her that. A true playwright makes up people who can be inhabited by actors. A storyteller makes shadow people in the head, autonomous and complete.
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The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt is not the same as The Children's Book edited by Frances Hodgson Burnett, even though Librarything's program has confused the two.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307272095, Hardcover)


for the Man Booker Prize

A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, that spans the Victorian era through the World War I years, and centers around a famous children’s book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.

When Olive Wellwood’s oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum—a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive’s magical tales—she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.

But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these lives—of adults and children alike—unfold, lies are revealed, hearts are broken, and the damaging truth about the Wellwoods slowly emerges. But their personal struggles, their hidden desires, will soon be eclipsed by far greater forces, as the tides turn across Europe and a golden era comes to an end.

Taking us from the cliff-lined shores of England to Paris, Munich, and the trenches of the Somme, The Children’s Book is a deeply affecting story of a singular family, played out against the great, rippling tides of the day. It is a masterly literary achievement by one of our most essential writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:08 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

When Olive Wellwood's oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum--a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive's magical tales--she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends--a world that conceals more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined and that will soon be eclipsed by far greater forces.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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