A. S. Byatt’s Posession has long been one of my favourite novels so I enthusiastically seized upon her latest work, The Children’s book … and was dismayed. Just I had engaged with the characters in the first chapter the book dives off into a discourse on the bohemian and radical in late Victorian society and then to a whole other group of people; it’s worse than a Russian epic. David Larsen’s review in the Listener July 4th 2009, p.40-41) sums it up: “Absorbing, rewarding and exasperating…” so I perservered, skipping ahead sometimes but the going back and re-reading.
I am now up to page 300 (it’s a big solid book) and the rhythm of the novel has captured me. I may even buy it which I only do with novels I know I am going to want to re-read – does anyone else do that? Yes, chunks of social history could have been edited out, but you can skim them; yes there are too many characters to fully develop as they deserve to be, but none the less, I love it. Oh to be able to write like this at all let alone when you are 80.