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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
3,0011761,901 (3.84)1 / 568
  1. 70
    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)
  2. 70
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  3. 81
    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".
  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: A Novel 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 (164)  Dutch (5)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All (175)
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
"The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in." -- W.H.Auden

The Children's Book definitely does THAT and expects that readers will join in.

It's not that I don't enjoy little stories, but the ones here interwoven with factual and imagined history, philosophy, puppetry, romance, children's books, families, anarchists, Fabians, clothes, clothes, and more clothes...are more often tedious and never-ending, as is the plot and the character developments which eventually dissolve into predictable recitations. There are also too many "had had."

The trajectory of Phillip's entry into the too good to be true lives of the Wellwoods defines the redeeming soul of the way-too-many characters, the boring history, and the plodding plot.
His exciting explorations into the art and science of pottery making enliven the well-crafted, yet ultimately too dense story.
The Grand Exposition in Paris is enlightening! How welcome photographs and drawings would for Phillip, Benedict, and Paris!

What to make of a step father's attempted rape followed by the step daughter's avowal of love?
What to make of Julian's transition from actively gay to pursuit of Griselda as his loving wife?
What to make of wapping up all the character and plot twists with the horrors of World War I? ( )
  m.belljackson | Jun 20, 2017 |
This book is a stunning portrayal of English socialists, stretching throughout the Victorian Era and up to the post-World War 1 years. Dealing with the everyday life of five interconnected families, this novel focuses on both the beauty in and loss of childhood.
( )
  serogers02 | Jun 10, 2017 |
The Fabians and the social scientists, writers and teachers saw, in a way earlier generations had not, that children were people, with identities and desires and intelligences. They saw that they were neither dolls nor toys, nor miniature adults. They saw, many of them, that children needed freedom, needed not only to learn, and be good, but to play and be wild.

But they saw this, so many of them, out of a desire of their own for a perpetual childhood, a Silver Age.

The children in the Wellwood, Cain, and Fludd families were born in the late Victorian era and came of age in the Edwardian era. Their extended childhood ended with the Great War. The Basil Wellwoods were a respectable middle class family while the Humphrey Wellwoods were bohemians, supported by Olive Wellwood's authorship of children's fantasy stories. The Fludds lived at the mercy of master potter Benedict Fludd's moods, while the Cains lived at the South Kensington Museum (which later became the V&A), where Prosper Cain was one of the Keepers. The book's themes include art, literature, socialism, and women's education and occupations. Byatt anchors the family drama in the social culture of Great Britain and, to an extent, Germany, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

It's not often that I reach the end of a nearly 700 page book and wish for more, but it happened with this one. The characters are so well drawn that they seem just as real as the historical figures they mix with in the novel. It has the feel of an E. M. Forster novel. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | May 8, 2017 |
When an author tries to entertain and enlighten us with long descriptions of three puppet shows in the first hundred pages of a 900-page book, this reader is unlikely to finish her book, or try to. At that the puppeteering was arguably more interesting than her interminable sequence describing in minute detail what several dozen guests were wearing to a lawn party. It doesn't help that all the while most readers will be sent to the dictionary multiple times per page. This book is so overwritten that it makes Look Homeward Angel look like flash fiction. Which is a pity, for the author builds great characters and has a nice feel and affinity for the doings of the artistic and intellectual elite of late-Victorian London. But reading this book is a chore. And I refuse to turn reading into a chore. ( )
1 vote Big_Bang_Gorilla | Mar 11, 2017 |
It was almost a history lesson as Byatt summarised key events over the years and even weaved in the suffrage movement into the story. Can be over the top at times but thankfully the plot saved the book. At the end of the book, you feel you have grown up with the characters leading you to feel for them and unashamedly shedding a tear at the end at the almost-family reunion. ( )
  siok | Jan 30, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 164 (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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