A.S. BYATT – THE CHILDREN’S BOOK – 2010
This is a book for very long
winter nights and you should cut it up in sections of four or five chapters and
distribute the sectionS among as many people as necessary and then bring the
readers all together and let them try to rebuild the whole book. You just
forgot on purpose by accident to give them the real page numbers and hence the
real order of the sections.
For one it is too long and it
gets lost in too much detail. For two there are too many characters who are all
treated equal and very fast you do not know who is who any more. For three the
period covered is by far too long and with these many characters you cannot
really follow each one of them because then the book is too short and there are
never enough detail about each one at each time. And the author jumps lumps of
time and you end up having the various characters’ lives sounding and looking
like dotted lines and the dots are at times far apart.
It is this lack of centeredness
and one-pointed-ness that makes the book difficult to read. Too long and slow
to read and yet with so many characters and jumps in the time line that we
never remember what happened before to this or that person. Hence you get lost.
Since the supposedly main character is a children’s story writer, Olive, the
author should have written this story the way a children’s story is written,
clearly following one path with one or two main characters and no break in the
time line, otherwise you have to summarize what was said before some time ago,
etc., all the time.
It is slightly regrettable
because of some of the themes, the Russian anarchists, the Fabian society
people, the First World War, the creativity of some craftsmen who are close to
art and yet still craftsmen, the horror of lead poisoning in the pot-making
industry and of industrial pollution as a whole, the squalor of working class
living conditions, and many other subjects. Too many subjects actually for any
one to be focused on. Concentrate your
If you start reading this book,
be sure to have something more dynamic next to you to cut this humdrum slow
moving multi-tiered and multistoried tale into digestible slices and thus if
you take notes to remember what is happening to some characters you may make it
last over three or four weeks and eventually reach the end without jumping one
or two hundred pages.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU