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Publisher's Summary

Olive Wellwood is a famous writer, interviewed with her children at her side. For each of them she writes a separate private book. In their rambling house near Romney Marsh they play in a story-book world - but their lives, those of their rich cousins and of their friends are already inscribed with mystery...
©2009 A. S. Byatt; (P)2009 WF Howes Ltd

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
  • Phillip
  • Lilyfield, Australia
  • 05-20-10

Adult book about the pleasures of knowledge

I am a huge fan of A.S. Byatt's Posession, and there are many similarities in this latest book. As an audiobook, the Narrator does a wonderful job with many different characters and story threads.

However, be warned, this is long - over 31 hours, and follows the lives of two generations of a constellation of families living in the English countryside at the turn of the 20th century. This is a very English novel, full of cups of tea, letters and London's museums.

Byatt is brilliant on the gathering forces of England and Germany at the beginning of the 20th century and despite the many different story threads and length I very much enjoyed the time I spend with this book.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A feast of ideas and characters.

I really enjoyed this audiobook. I loved both the story and narration. There are so many levels of ideas and meaning that make it a fascinating "read' and a storyline that makes it an enjoyable one.

I loved the amount of information about the historical period and the Arts and Crafts Movement but some might find this overwhelming.

I read some reviews of the print edition that said the book was too complex and too hard to follow, so I was a bit nervous about listening to it instead. But I had no trouble at all - in fact it may have been easier to understand than the print version because Byatt writes in such long involved paragraphs that I find visually hard to follow.


I have been able to listen in big slabs of time which probably helped me follow and maintain interest in the story - I can imagine it might be harder if I had to listen in short bursts or was trying to multitask while listening, just because it is so long.

There are a lot of characters, and some could have been better developed but I still found myself wishing I could meet many of them.


The narrator has done a great job - a seamless reading in a very appropriate accent. With so many characters it must have been challenging to try and express them all differently but she did a great job.


Overall one of the best Audible downloads I have listened to in a long time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Geoffrey
  • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 11-10-11

Name Dropping, 1895-1919, and a story.

This beautifully written novel starts with an intimate story of a family and it's Arts and Crafts society in 1895. Somehow it unravels to become a real history of people and events that end with the end of the 1st World War. Interesting and disturbing we come to know and care for a great many characters but become lost from the story and enter lists of social and politically timely situations. All good perhaps, there is always passion and thought, but it thins sadly from a most wonderful study of The Children in the first half, and left me knowledgeable but disappointed. The Performer, Nicolette McKenzie is superb.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Strange Narration

I expected to like this book, having enjoyed 'Possession' many years ago. Moreover, as an artist, and a fan of Arts and Crafts, the setting appealed to me. I usually devour my audio books, but I find that I am grinding my way through this one - after several months I am still only half way through. I've been struggling to work out why. There's a big cast and potentially some great characters although most of them at this stage are not too well developed. It isn't the kind of story where you itch to know what happens next - I don't really care enough about anyone and their relationships with each other are mostly quite remote. But I have come to the the conclusion that, for me at least, that the narration is, well, a bit tedious. It sounds like a lecture rather than a narration. I've tried imagining other treatments and I think it might have been done differently. I'll get to the end eventually, but won't be recommending it to my friends.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • w.a.m.
  • 1965BG, Heemskerk, The Netherlands
  • 01-24-13

No grip

I don't know if it's just me, but I couldn't get a good start in this book.
I took this book because I LOVED Possession and the Children's book was a nice LONG book. However wayyyy too long for me. It seems.
It took me ages to get listenend to the first 4 hours. I have started over and over again. I did tried, because I have read all those great reviews.
So I think it must be just me!!!

  • Overall

Fabian England at the turn of the century

This book is like an onion, layers upon layers. This is a very interesting time historically at the end of Victorian England and the rise of a new social order. Although long, it is well worth the time required. I did feel that the final part of the book apeared to be of a different style but despite this is an excellent read.

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  • Overall
  • Nancy Bowring
  • 01-11-10

Magical and tragic - highly recommended

For an audiobook, the large cast of characters could become confusing to the listener. However, Nicolette McKenzie's superb dramatisation, fine tuning to accents and dialects, giving each character his/her own unique voice and personality, I soon knew everyone without having to be told "he said/she said".
I loved this book and all the stories - fairy tales and real life - will remain with me for a long time. The combination of A.S. Byatt's fine writing and Nicky McKenzie's skilled narration brought historical events (well researched and very informative) to life so that they seemed real to me and as if I'd experienced them first hand myself. I cannot recommend this audiobook highly enough.

39 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Pamela
  • 04-13-10

Definitely worth a listen!

If this hadn't been an audible book I doubt I'd have ever finished it! This is a huge, meticulously researched and detailed book in which A S Byatt brings the customs, manners and contradictions of late 19th century England to life.

The narrator is brilliant - her characterisations were perfect and I always knew who was speaking to whom. This was particularly valuable because there is a large and varied cast!

Some of the descriptions (especially of puppet shows) were rather too long in my opinion and occasionally the narrative felt a little turgid. Howevever, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, learned so much more about life in England in the late 19th/early 20th centuries and really cared about what happened to the characters.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Philippa
  • 02-09-12

A Long Listen

One cannot but be impressed with the scale and detail of this book which studies several families and the results of their actions against social and political change. The detail is breathtaking and sometimes too much.Overall, a book I tried to read and only completed because I was able to listen to it in reasonable sized chunks.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Candice
  • 09-16-11

Hindered by uncomfortable narration

If this was a store bought item, I'd take it back for a refund.

The narration is a constant reminder of the worst puppet shows I was subjected to as a child. I can't seem to progress past wincing embarrassment and so fail to actually engage with the story.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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  • Mrs. K. I. Richards
  • 01-11-14

the childrens book

a thirty one hour book seemed at first to be a daunting prospect but I found it interesting and enjoyable. Part 3 of the book initially felt more like an epilogue until the author got once more into the storytelling mode. this is the only fault I found with the book.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Christine
  • 10-28-10

Disappointing

I also found the narration of this book very disappointing. It jarred so much that I had to give up and go back to reading it in paperback. This is the first time this has happened. I shall listen carefully to the sample readings before buying in future.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • danbignose
  • 03-16-10

Long miandering and over discriptive

Oh my word. I wanted to enjoy this book but it took me three attempts to get into it. The author seems to be insistent on desrcibing in great detail every napkin, curtain and piece of attire. I freely admit that this book is probably not targeted at a thirty something bloke but thought I would try something different. It is a shame because the underlying story and characters are great. I just lost interest in the overly complicated attempt to set the scene. I think basically the thing that annoyed me was that not enough emphasise being put on the important and sometimes emotional points in the characters lives. And i sort of understand that it was trying to give the overall impression of stiff upper lipedness of Britain at the time but didn't quite manage.

19 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • S. O'NEILL
  • 06-19-10

Is this a novel or a social history?

If you like A S Byatt, you will probably like her overblown style - and the fact that she likes to show off the amount of research she's done. Unfortunately, although this is bearable when reading a book (provided you are prepared to persevere), for me it became unbearable as an audiobook. I found it very difficult to concentrate on - or even to be interested in - the large cast of characters or the details of the exhibits in the Paris Exposition for example. Inside this epic novel there is a good story of three families falling apart over 30 years - but it is lost in a social history of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Fabianism, nationalism etc. Both have their merits - but mixed together, both seem to lose out. I find myself wanting to fast forward every time yet another dinner menu was spelt out or the details of everyone's clothing was listed. The book is well read on the whole - but I think this was one that would have been better in paperback rather than mp3. If you can sit on the beach with your eyes closed and give this your full attention, it might work - but if, like me, you listen on your way to work, picking up and putting down the story, it is difficult to remain interested or involved with the book.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • JJJ35
  • 12-03-16

Tedious

What would have made The Children's Book better?

Fewer characters and more intimate 3rd person viewpoints would have helped to improve this tome.

What could A. S. Byatt have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

The rather didactic style could have been replaced with historical insight. Too much of a history lesson.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Taken us into the minds of the characters and to have led with one central, powerful one. Olive almost took this role but there were too many others cluttered around. A touch of humour wouldn't have gone amiss.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

There were some fabulous scenes: especially Ellen's reaction to her baby, Herbert Methley's seduction of Florence.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Clare
  • 07-17-14

To long winded

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I've listened to probably 6hrs of this book and I have to agree with another review it is sooo long winded and descriptive by the time the description has finished you've lost the tread of the story.<br/><br/>Sorry giving up on this one

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • kate
  • 12-07-17

A superbly researched family saga

A hugely detailed story spanning the end of the 19th century & the first two decades of the 20th. A tale of politics, family values (or lack of them) the birth of the Victoria & Albert museum, the class divide, women's suffrage & the horror & waste of the First World War intertwined with the story of a working class runaway from the potteries who dreams of becoming a true artist. The boy, Philip Warren, is taken in by a self-centred Children's novelist & introduced to a brilliant but troubled potter. A detailed & extraordinarily well researched book; a window on the social & political issues of the time wrapped up in a really good story!

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  • erina reddan
  • 04-27-17

compelling and profound

this is a breath taking and ambitious novel that sucks you in and and hiolds you tight. it is an intelligent and wisely observed critique of events leading up to ww1? an exploration of art and the effect of rules on our ability to breath. rather wonderful. I am so grateful to the author.