The Children’s Book

A. S. Byatt

The Children's Book
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The Children’s Book

A. S. Byatt

Famous author Olive Wellwood writes a special private book, bound in different colours, for each of her children. In their rambling house near Romney Marsh they play in a story-book world - but their lives, and those of their rich cousins and their friends, the son and daughter of a curator at the new Victoria and Albert Museum, are already inscribed with mystery. Each family carries its own secrets.They grow up in the golden summers of Edwardian times, but as the sons rebel against their parents and the girls dream of independent futures, they are unaware that in the darkness ahead they will be betrayed unintentionally by the adults who love them. This is the children’s book.

Review

The Children’s Book, the latest novel by Booker Prize winner A.S. Byatt, is a masterful examination of a child’s initiation into adulthood: the insecurity, the predators, loss of innocence and the uncovering of secrets and lies woven by the adults close to them.

Spanning the austere England of the 1890s to the giddy Edwardian years of the early 1900s, the novel maps the lives of Olive and Humphrey Wellwood, their seven children and the young cousins and friends in their privileged circle. Olive is a celebrated children’s book writer and the family exist in a golden bohemia where children are given choice and freedom in a world where men’s paths are fixed and women have few rights.

The Children’s Book is meticulously researched and Byatt brings to life a remarkable array of characters, as well as the political and social climate of England and Europe at the time – a region seething with change and unrest. This novel is involved and works on many levels; it’s not one to pick up for a casual read, but it is highly rewarding.

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