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The Children's Book

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The Children's Book Cover

ISBN13: 9780307272096
ISBN10: 0307272095
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"Bristling with life and invention, it is a seductive work by an extraordinarily gifted writer." Washington Post

Review:

"Pitch perfect, stately, told with breathtakingly matter-of-fact acuteness, this is another winner for Byatt." Library Journal

Review:

"Ambitious, accomplished and intelligent in the author's vintage manner." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize-winning author of Possession 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.

Synopsis:

From the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, a dazzling new novel that spans the years from the Victorian era through World War I and centers around a famous childrens book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.

When Olive Wellwoods oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the Victoria and Albert Museuma boy who could be a character out of one of Olives magical talesshe takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.

But the midsummer bacchanals the Wellwoods host at their rambling country houseand the private books that Olive writes for each of her seven childrenconceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these livesof adults and children alikeunfold, lies are revealed, hearts are broken, and the damaging truth about the Wellwoods is slowly uncovered. Yet a far larger danger awaits: the Great War lies ahead, and it will leave no one unscathed.

Suspenseful, seductive, at once sweeping and intimate, The Childrens Book is a masterly literary achievement by one of our most essential writers.

About the Author

A. S. Byatt is the author of numerous novels, including the quartet The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman; The Biographers Tale; and Possession, which was awarded the Booker Prize. She has also written two novellas, published together as Angels & Insects; five collections of shorter works, including The Matisse Stories and Little Black Book of Stories; and several works of nonfiction. A distinguished critic as well as a novelist, she lives in London.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

cariola119, November 29, 2009 (view all comments by cariola119)
What can I possibly say about this book that hasn't been said by other reviewers, on LT and elsewhere? It's a collection of fantasies--not just Olive Wellwood's evolving children's stories and Stern's marionette shows, but the fantasies lived out by the adults in the decades leading up to the first World War. The exposé of these fantasies is at the heart of the novel. Olive and Humphrey believe in the fantasy of free love: that it causes no jealousy between spouses, nor that it damages any of the seven children in their household, born from various liaisons yet raised to believe they are true siblings. Love, sad to say, does not conquer all, and some in the novel who give it too freely pay a heavy price. Another fantasy: that freedom allows children to grow up happy and full of potential; but freedom taken too far borders upon neglect, and not all children are by nature independent. Another set of fantasies: that art can change the course of world events, and that genius is always to be indulged for its own sake. The list goes on and on. Like the characters' fantasy lives, Olive Wellwood's stories are delightfully magical on the surface yet dark and dangerous underneath.

The novel's style and structure are inseparable, both building on the possibilities and threats in the space between fantasy and reality, between the Victorian age and the new post-world war period. Some readers have complained about excessive details in the first part of the novel; others complain about the brevity of the last. I feel this is intentional on Byatt's part, a verbal realization of the changing cultural and political milieu. The late Victorian period was still addicted to rigid social morés and manners, embellishment of one's person and one's home, etc.--and, as such, it gave birth to a myriad of reactionary movements, most of them equally pompous in their moral (or amoral) certitude. On the other hand, the rapid and extensive devastation of the war, a political killing machine gone amuck, left people back home stunned and empty--as reflected in Byatt's quickfire, almost callous list of the young men, fantasy-world Fludds and Cains and Wellwoods, cut down by a reality beyond their once-imagined control. Like Stern's marionettes, they dance in a world of fantasy, unaware that they are manipulated by strings that control their every move.

Yes, the book is massive and complex, and it takes some concentration to keep track of the various characters and their relations to one another. It's the kind of book that, when you finish it, you need to think about it for awhile, and then you know that you will need to read it again to fully appreciate its genius.
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pebbeb, October 22, 2009 (view all comments by pebbeb)
I first heard about this book months ago when I listened to an interview with A.S. Byatt as she talked about it. After the interview, I immediately went online to order The Children's Book but discovered the book wasn't to be released until October. But it was well worth the wait. Fascinated by Victorian children's authors like E. Nesbitt, J.M. Barrie, Kipling, and Kenneth Grahame I am drawn to the story of a Olive Wellwood, an author of children's books, and how destructive it can be to use the lives of one's own children as grist for the mill. Byatt crafts a tale that deals with the power (good and bad) of art, industrialism, and the events that led up to World War I.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307272096
Author:
Byatt, A. S.
Publisher:
Knopf
Author:
BYATT, A.S.
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Runaway children
Subject:
Bildungsromans
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20091006
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
688
Dimensions:
9.32x6.58x1.70 in. 2.21 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Children's Book Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 688 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9780307272096 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Bristling with life and invention, it is a seductive work by an extraordinarily gifted writer."
"Review" by , "Pitch perfect, stately, told with breathtakingly matter-of-fact acuteness, this is another winner for Byatt."
"Review" by , "Ambitious, accomplished and intelligent in the author's vintage manner."
"Synopsis" by , A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize-winning author of Possession 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.
"Synopsis" by , From the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, a dazzling new novel that spans the years from the Victorian era through World War I and centers around a famous childrens book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.

When Olive Wellwoods oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the Victoria and Albert Museuma boy who could be a character out of one of Olives magical talesshe takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.

But the midsummer bacchanals the Wellwoods host at their rambling country houseand the private books that Olive writes for each of her seven childrenconceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these livesof adults and children alikeunfold, lies are revealed, hearts are broken, and the damaging truth about the Wellwoods is slowly uncovered. Yet a far larger danger awaits: the Great War lies ahead, and it will leave no one unscathed.

Suspenseful, seductive, at once sweeping and intimate, The Childrens Book is a masterly literary achievement by one of our most essential writers.

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