Children’s Book is a novel by A. S. Byatt, which is loosely based on
children’s author E. Nesbit’s life. It was shortlisted for the 2009 Booker
book 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. Olive Wellwood writes magical
tales for children. On a visit to a museum, her son Tom finds a talented
working-class boy, Philip, and they decide to take him home. The Wellwoods live
in a house as fantastical as Olive’s stories. Philip soon begins to realize,
though, that their happy lives contain more darkness and secrets than they
initially let on. The children grow up, not knowing what is about to come and
their personal struggles are overshadowed by the golden era coming to an
What I thought: After reading and falling in love with Elementals, a short story collection by A. S. Byatt, I immediately went and got this book. And I really wanted to love this book, ever since I saw the fabulous cover. I mean, look at that blue! But I felt like it was slightly overdone. It is long, and at times too complicated. It also has a very leisurely pace. The author takes her time describing every little detail, which I actually liked: my problem was that she has squeezed too much story, too many chunks of information into a couple of hundred pages at the end. In a way, it shows the suddenness of the children growing up, not remaining quite as innocent anymore or the effect of the abrupt end of an era – but it doesn’t quite work that well.
I do love A. S. Byatt, though, and she is a brilliant writer. She paints vivid pictures in your head, which you couldn’t erase even if you tried (I don’t see why you would want to, either.) The book has a bit of everything – history, politics, society and best of all, family. I have discovered recently that I love historical fiction, for that feeling it gives you, like you’re actually there – this book felt wonderful that way, specially when familiar names like Grahame and Wilde popped up. The easy flow of words and the deep characterization make this book much more special than Elementals.
I may not have loved this book as much as I wanted to (blame the sky-high expectations) but it is quite fabulous, nevertheless. So I would recommend this book, but be sure to save it for a some day when you have enough time.