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The Children's Book Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged

3.7 out of 5 stars 153 customer reviews

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Julian Fellowes's Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
"Julian Fellowes's Belgravia" by Julian Fellowes
From the creator and writer of Downton Abbey comes a grand historical novel, with hugely exciting twists and dramatic chapter endings. Learn more | See author page
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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Gorgeously stuffed? Or overstuffed? Critics were clearly split on Byatt's latest offering. Several enthusiastically praised The Children's Book as a stunning literary achievement, a thinking person's novel, and the most noteworthy of Byatt's books since Possession was published almost 20 years ago. Others argued that, while Byatt is adept at richly evoking the Edwardian era, the book stumbles under the weight of its own excess. Too many characters, too many scandalous events, too many puppet shows, and too many passages on social history caused the exhausted critic from the Houston Chronicle to state: "Even the dirty parts ... seem to drag." Overall, however, The Children's Book is a worthy novel for dedicated Byatt fans who like their tomes dense, descriptive, and multilayered. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030757752X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307577528
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 2.2 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,218,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. M. Fisher TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an immensely difficult book to review, simply because the vast majority of casual readers probably *won't* automatically enjoy "The Children's Book." It is a dense, complex, ambitious, challenging novel that is not so much a story as it is a detailed portrait of a family, a community and an era. Stretching from 1895 to 1919 and set predominantly in the Kent countryside, A.S. Byatt's saga contains no central character or predominant plotline; instead it chronicles the historical, cultural and social context of the Victorian/Edwardian period and the effect it has on three families and their assorted associates.

Humphrey and Olive Wellwood live in an idyllic cottage called Todefright, where they host midsummer parties and watch as their brood of children (with special emphasis on their two eldest Tom and Dorothy) play in the sun. Olive is a successful children's writer, seeking new inspiration from Prosper Cain, a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, who in turn has two children: Julian and Florence. Connecting these two families with the third is Philip Warren, a lower-class runaway hiding in the museum, who is discovered by Tom and Julian and sent to become an apprentice to Benedict Fludd, a manic potter who lives with his vague, inert daughters, Imogen and Pomona. Secrets abound in each household: infidelities, political agendas, hidden pasts, simmering hatreds and changeling children.

At the book's core are the various relationships between parents and children; whether they be foster parents, illegitimate children, unwanted pregnancies, secret parentages, or even a play on the term that artists often use in referring to their work as "their children.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reading A.S. Byatt's "The Children's Book" is much like reading a 19th century novel; you read it the way you lose yourself in a densely plotted story by Trollope or Hardy. The first three sections ("Beginnings, "The Age of Gold," "The Age of Silver") span the period from around 1895 to just before World War I, from the end of Victoria's reign through the Edwardian era. The shorter last section ("The Age of Lead") includes the war itself, although from the moment the novel opens you know, just by looking at the birth dates, that all the boys growing into young men will come to suffer terribly. "The Children's Book" is historical fiction, and many real life characters pass through its pages, including Oscar Wilde, Emma Goldman, and G.B. Shaw. One of the central characters, the children's writer Olive Wellwood, whose idyllic home "Todefright" is where much of the "Age of Gold" is set, is based (according to an interview Byatt gave to "New York Times" reporter Charles McGrath) on the writer E. Nesbit, and other characters are also loosely based on real lives.

However, it is not just the characters that make this novel compelling. Byatt wants you to feel how different this time period is from our own, although it's hardly distant. Olive's children run free through a kind of children's paradise. Their elders attend earnest lectures on the "Woman Question" and on the plight of the poor. Time moves slowly, before the invention of the motorcar. Female dress (described in lush detail by Byatt) dazzles, even as it conceals the ankles. Literature for children becomes an art form. Byatt's attention to detail is astonishing: the world of pottery, the world of folklore, the worldview of the Fabians.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Before selecting this novel I read the many reviews that said this book wouldn't be for everyone, that it had extensively detailed descriptions and a meandering plot line with a rather unsatisfying ending. And even knowing all of that I still wanted to give it a try. I love details upon details and thought that maybe I would be the right reader for this book.

Sadly I was wrong, this book was not for me. I thought that the story started out interestingly enough, I enjoyed the scene in the museum with the children. I also enjoyed imagining the setting for the Midsummer celebration with the costumes and the Chinese lanterns. And my interest was peaked by the allusion to the sexual undercurrent between so many of the characters.

But the introduction of over thirty characters in the first one hundred pages was a bit overwhelming. As were the many references to the social and political groups unifying and dividing people during Victorian times. While I thought much of the information was interesting it was just too much all at once for this reader.

I think someone who is very familiar with specifics of the Victorian period would probably enjoy this book. For me it was just overwhelming and there wasn't a thread of suspense or intrigue that compelled me to continue reading the story. I didn't feel invested to find out what was going to happen and so I gave it up and didn't finish.

It's easy to see why some readers adore this novel and others not at all. I think this book will be enjoyed by a small cross section of the population. Unfortunately I am not among them.
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