The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The second line of this book is the date the story starts. Sneak a peak at the last chapter, and you'll see that the first line there is the date the story ends. When an author bookends their story in such a way, you know that the passage of time is a very, very important part of the narrative. Nineteen years go by in this case, nineteen years of family dramas that match the massive political and cultural revolution England itself was going through during the same time period. With at least a half dozen major characters and at least a dozen more almost major characters, plus the lord-knows-how-many secondary characters, there's a lot going on in this book, and there was a point, about one third of the way through, when I almost decided it wasn't worth remembering who was who's son, cousin, friend, or lover. But the world that Byatt has so meticulously researched and reconstructed is a hard one to leave, and eventually, by repetition and/or solid writing, everyone becomes sorted out. There are places where the action takes an obvious turn towards the writer showing off her research rather than story progression, and even worse, some incredibly academic chapters that have nothing to do with the narrative and are simply rude interruptions to a good read. The book does slip from literature into romance occasionally, but with over six hundred pages covering nineteen years, there's bound to be some incredible happenings in one or two lives.
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