The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt

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Synopsis

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About A.S. Byatt

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A.S. Byatt is the author of fifteen works of fiction including the Booker Prize-winning Possession, The Biographer's Tale and, most recently, the Man Booker-shortlisted The Children's Book. A distinguished critic as well as a writer of fiction, A.S. Byatt was appointed CBE in 1990 and DBE in 1999. Visit asbyatt.com for more information.
 
Published October 5, 2009 by Vintage. 898 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Children's Book

The New York Times

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“Two boys stood in the Prince Consort Gallery, and looked down on a third.”

Oct 11 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

The New York Times

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Set between 1895 and the Somme offensive, A. S. Byatt’s intricate novel tracks several British households joined by an ardent belief in art and social reform.

Oct 11 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

The Guardian

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Byatt has again produced pastiche texts – children's stories and poetry – for her characters.

May 02 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

The Guardian

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Despite some of its structural similarities to Byatt's earlier novel Possession, and its thematic links to the tetralogy that featured Frederica Potter, it reminded me most of Byatt's Little Black Book of Stories.

May 08 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

The Guardian

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This byzantine study of the home life and milieu of a fictional Edwardian children's author, Olive Wellwood, is a beguiling offshoot from the growing popular interest in the personal lives of the creators of 20th-century children's literature, from JM Barrie and Lewis Carroll to Enid Blyton.

Jan 09 2010 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

The Wall Street Journal

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A tale of Fabian-era utopianism and its less than ideal family costs

Oct 03 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

Star Tribune

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Byatt's prose is powerful and nimble. "The Children's Book" is densely populated, but each character comes alive in an engrossing, moving study of the dynamics of creation, creativity and power. It is a stunning achievement and possibly her best novel yet.

Oct 11 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

The Globe and Mail

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By a slow process of accretion, A.S. Byatt's writing takes on the majesty of a glacier: monumental, pure, beautiful

Apr 24 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

AV Club

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As the Wellwood children grow and listen to their parents’ progressive, sometimes radical rhetoric, they discover realities that end the innocence of their sentimental childhoods: affairs, illegitimacy, boarding-school abuse, glass ceilings, and the power of the uncanny urge for sex and death.

Oct 29 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

The Telegraph

Her latest novel, The Children’s Book, pursues a similar theme over an equivalent expanse of time – it begins in June 1895 and concludes in May 1919 – but in a single, vast volume.

Apr 26 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

The Telegraph

The light flowed round the surface, like clouds reflected in water.” Theirs is a life of creativity and pleasure: midsummer parties notable for their performances of Shakespeare, puppet shows, lectures on the new political idealism, a trip to the Grande Exposition in Paris – complete...

May 07 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

The Bookbag

It was a time when children, at least rich children, were allowed to be free and adult authors like JM Barrie wrote both about and for children and was also widely read by adults.

Nov 29 2012 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

USA Today

In fact or fiction, the world is not a safe place for children.

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Pajiba

The Edwardian’s near-obsession with childhood and a golden past is reflected in Olive Wellwood’s success as a children’s writer, in the stories she writes for her children, the puppeteer’s success in Germany and Britain alike, and the academic interest shown in folktales at the time.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

As one of the more striking examples of the type, The Children's Book depicts novelist and passionate women's rights advocate Herbert Methley, who beds and impregnates a host of women while seeking inspiration for his fiction (Mr. Woodhouse and the Wild Girl and other stories about lusty young fe...

Oct 09 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

Chron.com

Even the dirty parts — and there are many, written in elaborate and X-rated detail — seem to drag.

Oct 13 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

Journal Sentinel

Byatt uses the children's lives to explore what it must have been like to live in a world that in less than 20 years went from tightly corseted Victorian values to one where the stays loosened in almost every aspect of society.

Dec 26 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

Some exegetical insights into writing are shared too — for instance, one character gives a lecture on “The Conventions of the Novel,” declaring, “Everything in a novel must end with a marriage — this was still so, although the great novelists had already revealed that life, and love, particularly...

Oct 07 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

Bookmarks Magazine

Several enthusiastically praised The Children's Book as a stunning literary achievement, a thinking person's novel, and the most noteworthy of Byatt's books since Possession was published almost 20 years ago.

Apr 26 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

Literary Review

(As in her Booker Prize-winning novel Possession, where she famously wrote pastiches of the poetry of Robert Browning and Emily Dickinson, Byatt includes some of Olive's creepy tales, and conjures up the West End staging of her fantasia, Tom Underground.) Olive, her husband Humphry and their broo...

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Alibi

(I hope you like remakes and sequels!) Film Review: The Yes Men Fix the World Idiot Box: Ballers, New Year’s Eve around the dial Week in Sloth: TV listings Recent Movie Reviews Film Times/Capsules music The Next Decade of Sound: A handful of local music anticipate the near future of mu...

Dec 31 2009 | Read Full Review of The Children's Book

Reader Rating for The Children's Book
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