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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
2,8481642,038 (3.85)1 / 549
Title:The Children's Book
Authors:A.S. Byatt
Info:Vintage (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 896 pages
Collections:Your library, Kindle

Work details

The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt

  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. 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)
  3. 50
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  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. 23
    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (kidzdoc)

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English (154)  Dutch (4)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (164)
Showing 1-5 of 154 (next | show all)
An excellent intricate and challenging read. ( )
  BridgitDavis | Apr 22, 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 |
A. S. Byatt has such a unique voice – old school literary with a modern fearlessness. This work is about children and storytelling – and storytelling and society – and children and society. Yet, Byatt is one of those authors that can successfully weave numerous themes throughout her work successfully. Through the literature of the era- this novel functions as an informal cultural history of England leading up to WWI. She is amazing- she gives us this charming cast of characters, and through their voices we get an idea of the issues that the society was struggling to understand. Free love, women’s rights, suffrage, woman in the workplace, socialism, poverty, industrialization, anarchy. We taste the art, the literature, the theatre, the politics – and Byatt lets us see them as children learning about the world as they grow.
  Alidawn | Jan 16, 2016 |
Beginning in 1895 the story follows the interlocking lives of several families up to its conclusion in 1918.

It covers the prominent themes of society moving from the serious, sombre Victorians to the free and feckless Edwardians and finally to the discontent of the Georgian era and the devestation of the first world world.

The main political ideals of the day are explored, the Fabians, Theosphists, Anachists, Marxists, Conscientious Objectors, Suffragettes and general strikes. These are explored through the eyes of the growing children and their parents.

There are cameo appearance of many well known contemporary artists, Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, H G Wells, the trial of Oscar Wilde, the first performance of Barries Peter Pan and many more.

In the background of all the stories is the idea of the dark side of fairy tales the rules that govern them and their basis in German traditional folklore. The story also includes stories within the story as Olive writes fairy tales for her children.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx SPOILER ALERT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

On a personal level it explores dysfunctional families showing the damage caused to children of artistic parents who neglect them in favour of their art, unfaithful wives and husbands raising children of mixed heritage without the childrens knowledge.

Artistic genius demands forgiveness for child abuse, mood swings and neglect.

Public school bullying that many write off as harmless is shown to lead to psychological damage and self destruction.

Inapproriate relationships instigated by adults who should know better which result in illegitamate children and single mothers.

The fight women had to face to get an education and a profession, working harder and longer than male counterparts.

Finally it ends with the ending of the war which has wrought devestation on the main family while managing to bring another family together.

A complex, complicated novel that tackles several themes head on using the central characters, a great work which at times is very emotional and hard reading.

Probably needs reading more than once to truly appreciate all the complexity.

( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 154 (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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For Jenny Uglow
First words
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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(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)


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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