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It left me wanting more and less
on May 30, 2009
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.