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The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
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The Children's Book (edition 2010)

by A.S. Byatt

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,0131761,895 (3.84)1 / 578
Member:elsmvst
Title:The Children's Book
Authors:A.S. Byatt
Info:Vintage (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 896 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Familie, kunst, pottenbakken, poppenspel, vrouwenkiesrecht, Engeland, ww 1

Work details

The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt

  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 (165)  Dutch (5)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All (176)
Showing 1-5 of 165 (next | show all)
What to say... what to say. The arts and crafts movement - covering the last ten years of the Victorian period, through the Edwardian period and into the House of Windsor period - is richly captured. Byatt brings minute details to focus, allowing this reader to "experience" the industry of potters, metals workers, puppeteers, play dramatists and writers against the backdrop of the Fabian and Suffragettes movements. The lifestyles of Byatt's characters are languid, steeped in a kind of drunkenness a warm summer day in a fragrant garden can produce. Beneath that outward display of calm roils deep set frustrations and a desire for.... something different. One one level, this book is a masterpiece depicting time and place. The weaving of fairy tales in to the story-line imbues the story with as sense of magic and wonder, but the characters are for the most part unappealing in their aimlessness. I get that the times being depicted were a mix of heady escapism and rising socialistic purpose but I found myself getting lost in the descriptions and losing the tenuous plot threads. All emotion comes across as muted, or as a bit of hysterics. Even the more horrifying elements of WWI appear to have been written to cloak the resulting image as being veiled, removing some of the sharp focus certain parts of the story call for. One reviewer has commented that [The Children's Book] is a human story of responsibility, with the characters "attempting to define their responsibilities, whether to fulfill them or to evade them; with those in pursuit of enlightenment or seeking to manipulate it; and with some simply attempting to unearth who they are and what they should do to survive." From that perspective, Byatt has delved deep and produced results that may appeal to readers seeking a story about the human condition and all its flaws. While I loved the details depicted in the story, I never felt a connection to any of the characters, expect for Philip Warren, one of the few characters who knew all along what he wanted to accomplish.

Overall, a good read but I felt like an observer peering in from afar as a group of actors fumble their way through their roles. ( )
1 vote lkernagh | Jul 16, 2017 |
A. S. Byatt's The Children's Book is a sprawling historical novel that spans approximately a quarter century from the late Victorian Era through the end of World War I. The book chronicles several dozen characters within intertwined families and the deep secrets that lie beneath their staid veneer of refinement. Byatt weaves in many themes, including women's rights, free love (and its often ironically high cost), and Fabian socialism. The book additionally serves as an homage to theatre, the creative process, museums, and the inherent beauty of form and design, largely seen through the vivid descriptions of pottery. But as the title suggests, this is also a book about children, and the writing of books for children. With a keen eye, Byatt explores elements of the childhood and adolsecent experience: innocence and its loss; the first thoughts and tingles of sexuality and its furtive initial explorations; relationships with parents and siblings; anxiety and alienation. The narrative also ponders children from the parent's viewpoint, particularly regarding the loss of a child.

As such, there is a lot packed into the book - indeed, too much. It was a failed struggle to maintain a coherent understanding of the plotlines and relationships of all the characters (although given some of the family secrets revealed, perhaps that latter difficulty is indeed deliberate and thematic). Only a handful of characters held my interest throughout. While there are some truly fine insights, this is a tedious read as the narrative structure inevitably bogs down under its own weight. ( )
  ghr4 | Jul 10, 2017 |
"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 |
Showing 1-5 of 165 (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....
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Byatt, A. S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
McKenzie, NicoletteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, StephenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Two boys stood in the Prince Consort Gallery, and looked down on a third. It was June 19th, 1895.
Quotations
"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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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)

Shortlisted



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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