Book #42 of 2010 was one that I got for Christmas; it was still waiting by my bed when I got back to Haiti. The book is The Children's Book, the latest unpleasant, beautiful, convincing, complicated, brilliant book by A.S. Byatt.
This is the story of Olive Wellwood, a children's author, and the families connected to hers. Ultimately it is the story of the children who grow up in and around this complex, Fabian, morally confused family. It begins in 1895 and ends in 1919, and along the way we see the fabric of British society changing. Byatt is very good at evoking the mores of a certain time and place, and I learned a lot from this book about attitudes and ideas of this period. Everyone has secrets, all horrid, and in the end the carnage of the first World War lays waste to the group of children, who are adults by this time. Like Byatt's other books, this one includes ideas about art and creation and where stories and artifacts come from. Olive uses and neglects her children to create her writing; Benedict Fludd does the same to his for his pottery. Philip and Elsie have a mother who paints beautiful china plates, and ruins her health because of the lead in the glaze. Creativity in Byatt's books is never without cost.
This post is linked to the July 31st Saturday Review of Books.
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