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The children's book : a novel
A. S. Byatt
Adult Fiction BYATT

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Byatt's overstuffed latest wanders from Victorian 1895 through the end of WWI, alighting on subjects as diverse as puppetry, socialism, women's suffrage and the Boer War, and suffers from an unaccountably large cast. The narrative centers on two deeply troubled families of the British artistic intelligentsia: the Fludds and the Wellwoods. Olive Wellwood, the matriarch, is an author of children's books, and their darkness hints at hidden family miseries. The Fludds' secrets are never completely exposed, but the suicidal fits of the father, a celebrated potter, and the disengaged sadness of the mother and children add up to a chilling family history. Byatt's interest in these artists lies with the pain their work indirectly causes their loved ones and the darkness their creations conceal and reveal. The other strongest thread in the story is sex; though the characters' social consciences tend toward the progressive, each of the characters' liaisons are damaging, turning high-minded talk into sinister predation. The novel's moments of magic and humanity, malignant as they may be, are too often interrupted by information dumps that show off Byatt's extensive research. Buried somewhere in here is a fine novel. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

A girl places some diminutive folk she's discovered into her doll house, then is imprisoned by a giant child herself. A prince discovers that he alone has no shadow. No, these aren't plot points in this masterly new work by the author of Possession but children's stories written by one of its protagonists, Olive Wellwood. There are, or course, actual children in the book-Olive's, with blustery banker-turned-crusader husband Humphrey; the Wellwood cousins; Julian, son of a keeper at the South Kensington Museum; Philip, the wayward boy discovered living surreptitiously in the museum, whom Olive brings home to her country estate; the family of brilliant but selfish master potter Benedict Fludd, who takes in the talented Philip as an unpaid apprentice; and more. Like the children in Olive's stories, these children have their notions quietly disabused; one small instant-say, a parent's overheard comment-and life is changed forever. It's the late 1800s, with new ideas in the air-and it's all rushing toward World War I. Verdict Pitch perfect, stately, told with breathtakingly matter-of-fact acuteness, this is another winner for Byatt. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/09.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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more titles about

main characters Olive Wellwood
Writes children's fairy tales.

Benedict Fludd

. Phillip Warren
Benedict's apprentice.

Prosper Cain

Basil Wellwood
Olive's brother-in-law; works for the Bank of England.

Dorothy Wellwood
Olive's daughter; wants to become a doctor.

Hedda Wellwood
Olive's daughter; wants to fight for women's rights.

Tom Wellwood
Olivia's son; sent to an upper-class school, but enjoys his time in the woods.

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