When they were little girls, Cassandra and Julia played a game in which they entered an alternate world modeled on the landscapes of Arthurian romance. Now, the sisters are grown and have become hostile strangers—until a figure from their past, a man they once both loved and suffered over, reenters their lives. It is the skittish, snake-obsessed Simon who draws Julia and Cassandra into his charismatic orbit … and into menacing proximity to each other, their discarded selves, and the game that neither of them has completely forgotten. What ensues is both shocking and as inevitable as a classical tragedy.
©1967 A. S. Byatt (P)1993 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Byatt is a gifted observer, able to discern the exact details that bring whole worlds into being.” (New York Times Book Review)
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I have often enjoyed A.S. Byatt's work. Some of it is absolutely breathtaking. Sadly, this book is so bad that had it been the first thing I'd read from Byatt, I would never have read anything else she wrote.
The plot introduction seemed promising, as if there would be an intriguing story question to be worked out. Sadly, the book moves along as slowly as one of Simon's snakes in cool weather. I tried but regrettably failed to care what happened to these characters.
There is a rather unseemly sense of washing the dirty laundry of the family in a public forum. Her sister, novelist Margaret Drabble, called it "a mean-spirited book about sibling rivalry," and it has been blamed for setting the seal on their estrangement.
Whether or not that is the case, my advice would be to enjoy the work of Byatt's maturity and leave this self-indulgent mess alone.
I had loved Possession, so I had high hopes for this one but was disappointed.
This is the story of deep conflict between two sisters, but neither was a sympathetic character, and the story dragged. I did listen to all of it, but almost gave up half-way through. It is one of her earlier works, and undoubtedly reflects the well-known conflict between Byatt and her sister, Margaret Drabble.
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