Sunday 31 May 2009

In-depth Fiction

Finished May 31
The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
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:
I really found this interesting after reading the novel.

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