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Still Life Paperback – April 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Still Life is the second volume of a te tralogy. The three Potter children, Stephanie, Frederika and Marcus, in troduced in The Virgin in the Garden ( LJ 2/15/79), 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, al beit not without constant struggle. Mar cus, 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 re warding novel . While its intellectual preoccupations and allusions will not be readily accessible to a broad reading public, it belongs in major fiction col lections. Diana Vincent-Davis, New York Univ. Sch . of Law Lib.
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A major novel…a marvellous and most unusual work.” -- Iris Murdoch

“Affords enormous and continuous pleasure.” -- Anita Brookner --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st Scribner Paperback Fiction ed edition (April 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684835037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684835037
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By peterb on January 7, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Second in A.S. Byatt's ongoing Yorkshire quartet (the first and third novels are "The Virgin in the Garden" and "Babel Tower") I couldn't put Still Life down from the moment I picked it up. Tracing the Potter clan's lives through Stephanie's childbirth (and lingering chillingly on the degrading way mid-50's medicine treated expectant mothers), Still Life is one of the few books I've read in many years that brought me to the verge of tears. Strongly recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By E. Allen on December 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
I respect all those who like or love this book.
The intellect and wisdom in the author are obvious.
Yet for me, it had almost a shorthand style--as if written
for the author's own circle of friends who can
automatically decipher her particular meaning in every phrase
or reference. It's very rare that I don't finish a book--
perhaps 5 times in the last 20 years. But by page 60 or so,
I realized I was never going to care much for the characters,
and was never going to enjoy the act of reading it. I'm a HUGE
Iris Murdoch fan, I've read 15 of her books. I had always
imagined Byatt and Murdoch as contemporaries--indeed they
endorse each other's books, and Murdoch raved about this one.
But for me, Murdoch offers all the human insight and philosophical
genius and engrosses me in the stories at the same time.
This writing is from an impressive mind, but I simply can't
call it a good read.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dingbats on February 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
Still Life is the second of A.S. Byatt's sequenced novels that begin with The Virgin In the Garden. The novel continues to chronicle the Potter clan in the late 1950s. Can you dive into the second without having read the first? Probably. In the early part of Still Life, Byatt provides just enough background to situate the characters. Of course, "just enough" will never be the same as reading the first novel.
Still Life reads differently from The Virgin in the Garden, the author less obssessed with moment-to-moment reporting through painstakingly-gathered details. It is more sprawling, emphasizing characters' growth over a wider span of time (relatively speaking). What hasn't changed is Byatt's love for and mastery of language, and concern for the life of the mind. The novel contains many passages where Byatt boldly, and almost intrusively, airs her provocative views on everything from writing, visual perception, love, to politics (i.e. delivered in the authorial first person instead of through a character's mouth or mind). But she is also an astute observer of the ordinary, whether depicting childbirth, adultery, or domestic vignettes. There's something for everyone here. The final section is a shocker. I finished the book not quite convinced that a freak accident belongs in a literary novel. All the same, be prepared to read some moving passages on grieving.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Romantic Anna on April 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a breathtaking novel. I was not that enthusiatic about The Virgin in te Garden but this book was amazing on every level. I love the development of these characters (who seem very real, very Known to me). Frederica is especially well developed. Her intelligence and lack of self-knowledge are an endearing package. I personally love the intricate explanations of ideas- it is refreshing to read about things that I think about and yet have never found elsewhere. My only real probelm with the book is that the author's voice intrudes too much; it isn't necessary to me to be AWARE of the fact that this is a novel. Byatt almost wants us to be aware that this is fiction when I would always rather be in that pleasant state of believing in the fiction. But overall, I couldn't put this book down; what happens at the end is shockingly sad. I wonder what book 3 in the series will bring.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
I must disagree with the reviewer who found it ultimately "empty," perhaps because my favorite character is different. Yes, it is sad. One of the main characters dies. I knew this was going to happen, but I still mourned for her; the death affected me more than any fictional character since Alcott's Beth. Odd, since there is nothing sentimental or cloying about Byatt's writing. I would recommend this book highly, although I think readers should start with the first in the series, _The Virgin in the Garden._
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on December 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
Having read The Virgin in the Garden, I couldn't wait to read the second part of this so far wonderful series about the Potter family. Still Life centers on Frederika, Marcus and Stephanie and their struggles with their Yorkshire upbringing and their thirst for all things intellectual. Stephanie has abandoned the life of academia and opted for a family of her own. She is somewhat content with her life, but things fall apart for her after a tragedy ensues. Marcus has some struggles of his own. He does not know his place in the world. Does he belong in Yorkshire, or should he do what his sister Frederika did? She goes to Cambridge to quench her thirst for knowledge. What transpires is a story about various intellectuals and the changes in their respective lives. There are various twists throughout this novel.

Still Life, like The Virgin in the Garden, has beautiful, flawless language that you cannot help but devour in one sitting. I love A.S. Byatt's writing. Hers is a voice that I cannot get enough of. This trilogy is literary, thought-provoking and lyrical. It is difficult to write a review about it without giving some piece of imperative information about the plot. It is something you have to read and later discuss with friends or book club members. I cannot wait to tell friends about this amazing novel. Still Life is a literary marvel. I am still thinking of Frederika, such a memorable character. This is a truly superb story by an obvious master storyteller. I recommend Still Life, but I advise readers to read The Virgin in the Garden a whirl before this one.
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