Synopses & Reviews
Frederica Potter, "doomed to be intelligent," plunges into Cambridge University life greedy for knowledge, sex and love. In Yorkshire her sister Stephanie has abandoned academe for the cozy frustration of the family. Alexander Wedderburn, now in London, struggles to write a play about Van Gogh, whose art and tragic life give the novel its central Leitmotiv.
In this sequel to The Virgin in the Garden, A. S. Byatt illuminates the inevitable conflicts between ambition and domesticity, confinement and self-fulfilment, while providing a subtle yet incisive observation of intellectual and cultural life in England during the 1950s.
"Still Life is the second volume of a tetralogy. The three Potter children, Stephanie, Frederika and Marcus, introduced in The Virgin in the Garden, continue in conflict with their Yorkshire roots. To them, and to the author, intellectual passions are as all-encompassing as emotional ties, and always at war with them. Frederika, whose novel this really is, escapes to Cambridge and the life of the mind, albeit not without constant struggle. Marcus, after a long breakdown, manages to stay and function in Yorkshire. Stephanie, having opted for small-town family life, loses her fight to retain an independent intellectual existence and is horribly vanquished by the material world in the book's one tragic moment. This is an opaque, challenging, and rewarding novel. While its intellectual preoccupations and allusions will not be readily accessible to a broad reading public, it belongs in major fiction collections." Library Journal
"A major novel...a marvelous and most unusual work." Iris Murdoch
"Affords enormous and continuous pleasure." Anita Brookner
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Possession, comes a highly acclaimed novel which captures in brilliant detail the life of one extended English family — and illuminates the choices they must make between domesticity and ambition, life and art. Toni Morrison, author of Beloved, writes of Byatt: "When it comes to probing characters her scalpel is sure but gentle. She is a loving surgeon".
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.