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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)
?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
?Byatt?s intellectual adventure is full of energy and vitality?[with] solid delights, keen and demanding pleasure.? Allan Massie, The Scotsman
A Whistling Woman portrays the antic, thrilling, and dangerous period of the late ‘60s as seen through the eyes of a woman whose life is forever changed by her times.
Frederica Potter, a smart, spirited 33-year-old single mother, lucks into a job hosting a groundbreaking television talk show based in London. Meanwhile, in her native Yorkshire where her lover is involved in academic research, the university is planning a prestigious conference on body and mind, and a group of students and agitators is establishing an “anti-university.” And nearby a therapeutic community is beginning to take the shape of a religious cult under the influence of its charismatic religious leader.
A Whistling Woman is a brilliant and thought-provoking meditation on psychology, science, religion, ethics, and radicalism, and their effects on ordinary lives.
The triumphant conclusion to Byatt's dazzling quartet of novels about English life is set in the late 1960s as the world begins to split. While Frederica--the spirited heroine of the novels--falls 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.
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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