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Still Life by A. S. Byatt
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Still Life (1985)

by A. S. Byatt

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1,121None7,329 (3.85)214
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  1. 00
    A Whistling Woman by A. S. Byatt (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels are about Frederica Potter.
  2. 00
    Babel Tower by A. S. Byatt (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels are about Frederica Potter.
  3. 00
    The Limits of Vision by Robert Irwin (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels show the problems of the highly intellectual graduate housewife.
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Ever since reading 'The Children's Book' by A. S. Byatt I've loved her writing. A month or so go I found one of hers in a thrift shop, and I could not wait to read it.
'Still Life' is part of the story of Frederica Potter (the second book of four). It describes a couple of years in the life of Frederica, Stephanie and Marcus, siblings in the fifties in England. Stephanie is married to Daniel, and expecting her first child. Frederica is starting her university years in Cambridge after six months in France as an au pair. Marcus is troubled, and for now, living with Stephanie and Daniel because he can't stand living at home anymore.
The book just meanders on, describing what happens (in beautiful language, like expected from Byatt) without really a main purpose to the story. In between the lives of the Potters and those around them we also get Vincent van Gogh and his struggles in life, as well as those of other artists, living (and part of the story) or dead. It is hard for me to say what I think about the story. I loved the language, the flow, the descriptions and the philosophy. I have no idea what the purpose was, but that doesn't bother me as much as I would have thought. It was just a lovely glimpse into the lives of many people in England, in the fifties, in all stages of life. Four out of five stars. ( )
  divinenanny | Dec 31, 2013 |
One of my favorite books of all time. A rich exploration of family and many many other things, intricately interwoven into the story e.g. like Van Gogh in Arles and his letters to Theo, or evolutionary biology and science. If you're confused by Prologue (only about 6 pages) set in the 80s, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT IT! Just skip it completely and read the rest of the book. It will make sense later. ( )
  lxydis | May 11, 2013 |
Brilliant.

I have to say, I'm still befuddled by people who don't like to read or think about books about people who like to read books and think.

Watch for Byatt's own intrusions to remark on her craft, Alexander Wedderburn's meditations on the phrase 'Still Life,' Frederica and Marcus and Byatt wondering at various points, and often together, about the nature of metaphor.

A perfect gift for expectant mothers. ( )
  karl.steel | Apr 2, 2013 |
This was a strange book. Nowhere near as brilliant as Possession, but interesting in its own right. I enjoyed the descriptions of human experience. Every now and then I came across something I hadn't ever heard described so well. Also, every now and then the author spoke up and talked about what she was trying to do with her book and what was and wasn't working, which was extremely weird. I don't like books written with some kind of gimmick or experimental approach, and I felt like this one completely fell flat at the end. All the same, I thin A. S. Byatt is a fine reader and I really enjoyed the book for its intellectual and artistic depth. ( )
  theonetruesteph | Mar 30, 2013 |
Bij het vorige deel schreef ik: "Ik heb lang in dit boek gelezen en niet alles was even boeiend. Tegen het eind kwam er wat meer vaart in". Bijzonder om te zien dat ik bij dit boek precies hetzelfde zou kunnen schrijven. Het is heel intellectueel, ellenlange beschrijvingen waarvan ik af en toe flinke stukken heb overgeslagen, maar het blijft toch boeien. En ook hier, op het eind gebeurt er opeens van alles waardoor je ademloos doorleest.
Ik heb deel drie in huis en aarzel of ik nu eerst aan iets anders zal beginnen. ( )
  elsmvst | May 26, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Still life extends its scene to France, Cambridge University, and London, with the devising of a play about Van Gogh as one major theme, involving consideration of his—and all—art. The weight, length, seriousness and complexity of these novels made them fit works for indexing.
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, Hazel K. Bell (Nov 30, 1991)
 
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Epigraph
"Such," he said, "O King, seems to me the present life of men on earth, in comparison with that time which to us is uncertain, as if when on a winter's night you sit feasting with your ealdormen and thegns--a single sparrow should fly swiftly into the hall, and coming in at one door, fly out through another.  Soon, from winter going back into winter, it is lost to your eyes."
Dedication
For Jenny Flowerdew
May 4, 1936 - October 11, 1978
First words
It was written over the entrance, gold letters on purple gloss on red brick.
Quotations
There is something both gratifying and humiliating in watching a man who has taken you for a routinely silly woman begin to take you seriously.
"I suffer from having to use a limited vocabulary. All the time. How big do you suppose the average used vocabulary is? 1,000 words? 2,000? William [her two-year-old son] can't know that many and Mary even fewer. And the people I see in the shops and most of the people in this parish wouldn't understand the words I really care about if I were suddenly to say them, right out, out of the blue. So the words become ghosts. They haunt me. ... We learn to think and can't use our thinking words ... like discourse. Discourse of reason. Sophistical. Ideal -- in a Platonic sense. Catalyst. Anacoluthon. Mendacious. Realism. The worst things are the words that do have meaning in the tiny vocabulary I do use, like real and ideal, words that lose half their associations."
The decorum of the novel, on the whole, requires that time not be given to grief. ... One of the many unpleasant aspects of grief is the need to feel responsible or guilty.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0684835037, Paperback)

From the author of The New York Times bestseller Possession, comes a highly acclaimed novel which captures in brilliant detail the life of one extended English family-and illuminates the choices they must make between domesticity and ambition, life and art. Toni Morrison, author of Beloved, writes of Byatt: "When it comes to probing characters her scalpel is sure but gentle. She is a loving surgeon"

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:06 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In this sequel to "The Virgin in the Garden", Byatt illuminates the conflicts between ambition and domesticity, confinement and self-fulfilment, while providing a observation of intellectual and cultural life in England during the 1950s.

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