Tina Jordan
October 23, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Children's Book

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
A.S. Byatt
publisher
Knopf
genre
Fiction, History

We gave it a B

In her massive, highly researched new novel, The Children’s Book, A.S. Byatt (Possession) brings to life England between Victorian 1895 and the end of World War I. In chronicling the children and social circle of famous children’s-book writer Olive Wellwood, she unearths the passions and the secrets — some happy, others dark, a great many about sex — that simmer below the surface of their proper English country lives. The Wellwoods mingle with real-life characters and fictional ones, including a puppeteer and a potter, while the war rages. Yet the book, rich as it is, never quite becomes a vivid saga; Byatt has overstuffed it with so many facts that it feels instead just ponderous. B

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