A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, that spans the Victorian era through the World War I years, and centers around a famous children’s book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.
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.
But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these lives—of adults and children alike—unfold, lies are revealed, hearts are broken, and the damaging truth about the Wellwoods slowly emerges. But their personal struggles, their hidden desires, will soon be eclipsed by far greater forces, as the tides turn across Europe and a golden era comes to an end.
Taking us from the cliff-lined shores of England to Paris, Munich, and the trenches of the Somme, The Children’s Book is a deeply affecting story of a singular family, played out against the great, rippling tides of the day. It is a masterly literary achievement by one of our most essential writers. (summary and book cover courtesy of goodreads.com)
This was a book I was thoroughly disappointed in. I was not previously familiar with A.S. Byatt’s work, but saw great reviews for other books and thought I'd give this one a chance.
While the historical details are interesting, there were too many characters to keep track of. I was constantly pausing to ask “Which guy was that again? The gay one or the brother?”. This also resulted in many events described like one-line Twitter updates to keep the story moving: He is still gay. She is still angry. He still loves her. At other times it felt like slogging through heavy details about flat characters that did not add to the story. After finishing the book, I felt like I had been told 2/3 of a story in extreme detail and was left hanging with no consequence. There was no final event, no moral of the story, no life-lesson to be learned. All my frustrations aside, the book did have some interesting nested stories and historical events which redeemed this book from a 1 star rating.
Rating: 2 stars!
Who Should Read It? History buffs interested in an insight to day-to-day life with a bit of story weaved throughout. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else.