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Still Life by A. S. Byatt
Still Life

trueL, October 20, 2013

At several surprising moments, an author's voice interrupts the narrative flow of A.S. Byatt's novel Still Life. As if in explanation of the title, it tells us, "I wanted to write a novel as [William Carlos] Williams said a poem should be--no ideas but in things." This unusual plan does result in some beautiful descriptive passages which rival painting in evoking a still life or landscape or interior. But Still Life is also a novel filled with many characters, people who can only be fully known if you read all four books of the Frederica quartet. You do get to know some people very well in this book but others are seen in the background, hinting at their secrets but not revealing everything.

Having read the last book of the four, A Whistling Woman, first, I was struck by the difference in tone between that rather rowdy book which captures the loudness and crowd actions of the sixties, and the hushed domestic life of the fifties in Still LIfe. Death makes a startling entrance into this quiet in an unforgettable scene. Having created a lifelike sense of continuity, of ongoing events never quite finished, Byatt is able to evoke the brutal way death can intrude and force an ending.
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