The Children's Book

A Novel

Byatt, A. S.

(Book - 2009)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Children's Book
When Olive Wellwood's oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum--a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive's magical tales--she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends--a world that conceals more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined and that will soon be eclipsed by far greater forces.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 0307272095
Branch Call Number: FICTION BYATT 2009
Characteristics: 675 p. ;,25 cm


From Library Staff

A tale spanning the end of the Victorian era through World War I finds famous children's book author Olive Wellwood taking in a runaway and exposing the boy to dark truths about her family's summer bacchanals at their rambling country house.

A tale spanning the end of the Victorian era through World War I finds famous children's book author Olive Wellwood taking in a runaway and exposing the boy to dark truths about her family's summer bacchanals at their rambling country house. Available on audiobook CD.

Children’s author Olive Wellwood takes a runaway named Philip - a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of her own magical tales - into the storybook world of her family and friends. But this fading Victorian world conceals more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever... Read More »

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Sep 02, 2014
  • reshpectabiggle rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

Interesting history, boring and tedious story, entirely too much sexual abuse. Probably why this person is a prizewinner, but I didn't enjoy this book at all.

Jul 27, 2012
  • uncommonreader rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Set at the end of the Victorian era, this book is about children growing up in the Edwardian period and is peopled with Fabians, anarchists, the V&A, the Arts and Crafts movement, etc. The characters are unconscious of the darkness and slaughter to come with WW I. Very good.

Feb 13, 2012
  • melwyk rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is a huge, sprawling saga taking us through the Edwardian Age up into the First World War and its end. I have a particular fondness for the Edwardians and so was very intrigued by the first intimations of the theme of this novel.

I can't really do this justice in a short review; there is too much in its 617 pages to summarize. If you have the patience to wade through quite a lot of social history and have an interest in Art Nouveau and textile arts, I think it is worth reading. If you're a Byatt fan you will also like it; there's no violent alteration in her style or subject matter to object to here.

The jacket designer did a fantastic job as well; the cover is gorgeous and comes straight out of the novel. This is a novel full of the magic and mystery of the decorative arts, of writing and storytelling, of the struggles of family relationships and the finally unknowable secrets within each person.

Dec 01, 2011
  • Janice21383 rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

Slooooooow and over-stressed, even though I'm a buff on this era. Maybe that's why I didn't like it. I kept thinking about the Edwardian authors I would rather be reading (Shaw, Wilde, Barrie, Beerbohm, Morris, Wells, Bennett...) Seriously, use the six months it will take to read The Children's Book, and read them instead. Most of TCB is stolen from them, anyway.

Oct 21, 2011
  • gvlee rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

I gave up in the middle of Chapter 4 when there was still no plot to be found. The book seems like a vehicle to expound on the virtues of enlightened English intellectuals. This is fine, but it lacks tension. It probably gets better, but I lacked the patience to find out. Write a review and let me know if it picks up further on!

Apr 19, 2011
  • stewaroby rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

One for the butterfly mind brigade. I loved it because I got the feeling I was learning things in a relatively painless way but it was about things I was already interested in, like the Victoria and Albert museum, the fight for women's suffrage,the First World War, puppets, pottery and fairy tales. A book list of titles about some of the subjects Byatt covers would be useful.

Apr 18, 2011
  • Cdnbookworm rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is a long book (over 600 pages) and it took me quite a while to get "into" it. The book follows a large number of characters, beginning with Olive Wellwood, an author of fairytales, and her family, and continuing on with relations, friends (both English and German), and the children resulting from all of these people. The book begins in 1895 and ends with the end of World War One. While there is a strong focus on the children of the different families and their development and interaction, we also see how this development affects the adults.
There is a lot of information around fairy tales, both German and English and their history and their popularity during this time period that I found very interesting. Another theme that came out related to the fairy tales was puppetry, particularly that of German puppet traditions.
Pottery was another strong theme that arose here with two characters being gifted in this area. There were also other writers and producers of plays that had lesser roles in the book.
With all these creative characters, a strong them for me was the genius of the artist, both physical and mental. The temperment of the artist to engross themselves in their work at the expense of those around them and the public success they valued less than their own feelings of accomplishment.
Another strong theme here was one of politics. There was a lot going on politically during this time period, including the Fabians, women's suffrage, labour union actions, anarchists, and socialism. We get glimpses into all of these within this novel and see how politics can fill the needs of some individuals.
While the events of World War One are only a small section of this novel, I felt that they were done very well, and I liked how the ending brought some interesting outcomes for the characters.
As I said, it took a while to enjoy this novel and get drawn in, but by the end I was thoroughly enjoying it and I learned so much besides.
After reading I noted a great interview with the author by one of the Dewey Divas: http://deweydivas.blogspot.com/2009/05/interview-with-s-byatt-on-her-new-novel.html
I really found this interesting after reading the novel.

Apr 01, 2011
  • mmga rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I cannot stop thinking about this book. The thesis on generational change and legacy, self indulgence and the prices paid by those that follow kept me thinking long after I had put this down. Brilliant.

Nov 30, 2010
  • anniemae rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

One of the most interesting and thought provoking novels I have read in a long time

Sep 08, 2010
  • stuvw27 rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

"Masterpiece Theater" fodder.

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Mar 03, 2011
  • texlongone rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

texlongone thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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Mar 14, 2010
  • vickiz rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

... failure with clay was more complete and more spectacular than with other forms of art. You are subject to the elements, he said. Any one of the old four - earth, air, fire, water - can betray you and melt, or burst, or shatter - months of work into dust and ashes and spitting steam. You need to be a precise scientist, and you need to know how to play with what chance will do to your lovingly constructed surfaces in the heal of the kiln. 'It's purifying fire and demonic fire,' he said to Philip, who took in every word and nodded gravely. 'Very dangerous, very simple, very elemental - '


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