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A Whistling Womanby A S Byatt
Synopses & Reviews
This electrifying new novel forms the triumphant conclusion to the great ?Frederica quartet? depicting the forces in English life from the early 50s to 1970.
While Frederica — the spirited heroine of Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, and Babel Tower — falls almost by accident into a career in television in London, tumultuous events in her home county of Yorkshire threaten to change her life and those of the people she loves. In the late 1960s the world begins to split. Near the university, where the scientists Luk and Jacqueline are studying snails and neurons and the working of the brain, an ?anti-university? springs up. On the high moors nearby, a gentle therapeutic community is taken over by a turbulent, charismatic leader. Visions of blood and flames, of mirrors and doubles, share the refracting energy of Frederica?s mosaic-like television shows. The languages of religion, myth and fairy-tale overlap with the terms of science and the new computer age. Darkness and light are in perpetual tension and the meaning of love itself seems to vanish; people flounder, often comically, to find their true sexual, intellectual and emotional identity.
The focus of these novels first widened from the old nuclear family to the experimental group and now narrows again to reveal the different, modern patterns of intimacy which emerged in these years. Through her wayward, lovingly drawn characters and breath-taking twists of plot, Byatt illuminates the effervescence of the 1960s — both its excitements and its dangers — as no one has done before. A Whistling Woman is the ultimate novel of ideas made flesh — gloriously sensual, sexy and scary, bursting with ideas, contradictions, scientific discoveries, ethical conflicts, sly humour and wonderful humanity.
"Fans of A.S. Byatt's fiction can be divided into two groups: Those who cannot understand her novels and those who lie....The British publisher claims that A Whistling Woman stands on its own, but I just wished it would stand still. This peripatetic story about the late 1960s is as fascinating, eclectic, and confusing as that psychedelic era." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)
?Byatt?s intellectual adventure is full of energy and vitality?[with] solid delights, keen and demanding pleasure.? Allan Massie, The Scotsman
?The last in Byatt?s magnificent quartet of novels on intellectual life and thought in the 1950s and 1960s, A Whistling Woman can be read on its own. Rich in metaphor and glancing allusion, it is a tale of learning and anti-learning, sects and cults, the complex sexual relationships of humans and snails....It makes a fine conclusion to the quartet.? Economist
About the Author
A.S. Byatt, author of the Booker Prize-winning Possession, is internationally acclaimed as a novelist, short story writer and critic. Her most recent fiction outside this tetralogy is The Biographer’s Tale, a novel, and Elementals, a collection of short stories. She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1999.
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