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The Children's Book Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Apr 21 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Canada; 1st Edition edition (April 21 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307398079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307398079
  • ASIN: 0307398072
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 4.1 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 953 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #359,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“May well be her masterpiece…. The kind of novel that can remind us why we fell in love with books and literature in the first place.”
The Gazette

“Proves yet again what a force she is…. Remarkable, peerless, and wilfully and delightfully and unapologetically intellectual, the kind of writer who makes you marvel at what she manages to put on the page.”
The Herald

“Byatt’s novel combines meaty ideas with the breathless page-turning propulsion of an old-fashioned saga…. Brimming with intelligence and sensuality, this is the perfect summer book.”
Metro UK (Book of the Week)

“This book made me thirsty: Whenever I put it down, it nagged me to pick it up again…. Monumental, pure, beautiful…. After more than 40 years of writing, Byatt can still breathe magical life into historical fiction, giving her abiding interests new relevance with each work.”
The Globe and Mail

The Children’s Book is a consummate work of art.”
Scotland on Sunday

“Easily the best book Byatt has written since the Booker-winning Possession.”
The Sunday Times

“Magnificent loquacity…. Gripping and often deeply affecting.”
Literary Review

“Compulsively readable…. This extraordinarily rich book is superbly embedded in the thoughts and beliefs and feelings of the period — and indeed in its interior décor.”
The Spectator

“You can count on A.S. Byatt to produce an engrossing saga.”
Tatler

“Enlightenment and social promotion and political advance in all its forms.”
New Statesman

“Has a richness of a pictorial décor which reminds one of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.”
Evening Standard

“Like Possession, it carries off the feat of being both a dazzling novel of ideas and an emotionally compelling page-turner, a historical work with a remarkably contemporary feel. One of our best writers has surpassed herself.”
The Gazette

The Children’s Book is a work that superlatively displays both enormous reach and tremendous grip…. Intellectual zest keeps the book sizzling with ideas. But it is alive with imaginative energy; too.”
The Sunday Times

“An indefatigable storyteller…. never less than the real thing.”
The Irish Times

“The sort of high concept rarefied intellectual fiction we’d expect from, well, A.S. Byatt.  Possession: the next generation.”
The Financial Times

About the Author

A.S. Byatt is internationally acclaimed as a novelist, short-story writer and critic. Her books include Possession and the quartet of The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman. She was appointed Dame of the British Empire in 1999.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By bookworm on Aug. 5 2009
Format: Hardcover
I had high hopes for the latest Byatt novel and sat down to enjoy this very long novel but I have to say that I found it disappointing.
There are simply far too many characters in the novel and the author picks them up and lays them down without any sustained development which might hold the reader's interest.
I think she bit off far too much and in the end crammed far too much into the novel - even venturing into WWI very cursorily. It all felt very rushed towards the end.
At the same time Byatt lingers lovingly over minute details of a vase or piece of sculpture which, although interesting initially, over the course of the novel becomes quite irritating.
She seems more comfortable working in miniature and much less comfortable with managing the grand sweep of the narrative structure.
She is such a master of language that I was surprised to discover repetitive use of adjectives in the same sentence. I think a good editor should have corrected some of the more obvious and annoying repetitions.
Although my review seems negative I would still recommend the novel even though it did not fully live up to my expectations. Such a pity though that Byatt crammed all this material into one novel.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Wendy E. Middleton on May 30 2009
Format: Hardcover
The writer honoured this year at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal was A.S. Byatt, and she launched her latest novel there. Other people compared this novel to Possession, Byatt's best known novel. I liked this novel, but I don't think it will be the best I read this year. It is a sprawling story spanning the years from 1895 to the end of World War I. Also there is a large cast of characters, including Olive Wellwood, a children's writer, who writes personal books for each of her seven children. The families of the children's cousins and friends are also part of the story, and as the children grow up, they start to get individual plotlines. However, at times Byatt starts to describe an incident involving one character but the story never seems to be completed because there are so many characters to keep track of. I would have been happy following the large group of fictional characters, but Byatt has done so much research on the Edwardian era, that she feels the need to include all sorts of historical characters as well. At one point I was unsure whether one historical character, who seemed to pop up quite often, was actually one of her inventions.

There are many fascinating stories here, but because I didn't get to follow all of the stories to their end, I had the feeling that I wanted more from a 615-page book that took me three weeks to complete. Byatt is an excellent writer and The Children's Book is a better novel than most that I will read this year, but because it is good, I wanted it to be better.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith on Aug. 25 2010
Format: Paperback
This novel is set in late Victorian and Edwardian England (between June 1895 and May 1919) and involves the interconnected stories of three families: the Wellwoods, the Fludds, and the Cains. The novel begins when two boys find a third boy (Philip Warren) hiding in the cellar of the South Kensington Museum. It is Philip's story, including his quest to become a great potter, which anchors the novel.

Art is important to each of the three families. Prosper Cain is Special Keeper of Precious Metals at the South Kensington Museum. Benedict Fludd, Cain's friend, is a potter of volatile temperament who destroys his own work at times. Olive Wellwood writes children's stories, inspired in part by her own large family. There is a tension between the positive and negative impacts of creativity - sometimes obvious (as in Fludd's destruction of his pottery) and sometimes far more subtle (Wellwood's impact on her family). It's tempting to see parallels between the changing roles of family members (especially Benedict Fludd and Olive Wellwood) and the changing shape of the society in which they live as the creativity of the late 19th and early 20th centuries gives way to war.

At times I found the novel complicated: the intertwining of stories and the number of characters made it challenging. I did not find it an easy novel to read but it was ultimately both enriching and rewarding.

`She thought of marching forwards and retreated.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Stupart on Aug. 29 2010
Format: Paperback
The Children's Book is a coming-of-age story in every sense of the word. It deals with profound transformations, not only in the lives of individual characters but in the world at large. Set in late Victorian and Edwardian England, a time of enormous social and political upheaval, the story follows the fortunes of the Wellwood family and their circle of bohemian friends and relations. But this is much more than a simple family saga. It is an ambitious, meticulously researched and thoroughly fascinating history of the ideas that shaped what has come to be known as the Edwardian Summer, that idyllic period in Britain immediately prior to World War 1. Byatt, however, believes that this so called golden age was mostly illusory and makes her point by drawing comparisons between the real world and the imaginary worlds created by children's writers. She argues that behavioral models based on traditional fairy tales can perpetuate outdated stereotypes and lead to false expectations in children, setting them up for failure and disappointment. A true golden age, therefore, can only be achieved within the the framework of an enlightened society where progressive new ideas are allowed to flourish and take root. These ideas are presented to the reader in the form of lengthy dissertations and intellectual discussions among the novel's characters, many of whom support the social reforms advocated by the Fabian Society. For readers looking for a fast-paced, plot-driven narrative, this is not a book I'd recommend. If, on the other hand, you love to become totally immersed in the social, cultural and political worlds of a sophisticated, richly drawn historical novel, The Children's Book should be right at the top of your reading list.
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