• The Children's Book

  • By: A. S. Byatt
  • Narrated by: Rosalyn Landor
  • Length: 30 hrs and 17 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (235 ratings)

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The Children's Book  By  cover art

The Children's Book

By: A. S. Byatt
Narrated by: Rosalyn Landor
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Publisher's summary

A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize-winning author of Possession, that 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.

When Olive Wellwood's oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum - a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive's magical tales - she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.

But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house - and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children - conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined.

As these lives - of adults and children alike - unfold, lies are revealed, hearts are broken, and the damaging truth about the Wellwoods slowly emerges. But their personal struggles, their hidden desires, will soon be eclipsed by far greater forces, as the tides turn across Europe and a golden era comes to an end.

Taking us from the cliff-lined shores of England to Paris, Munich, and the trenches of the Somme, The Children's Book is a deeply affecting story of a singular family, played out against the great, rippling tides of the day. It is a masterly literary achievement by one of our most essential writers.

©2009 A.S. Byatt (P)2009 Random House

Critic reviews

“Sweeping . . . At the center of this epic are the Wellwoods and their many offspring. Olive, the matriarch, is the author of children’s books, vivid tales of fairies and demons, little people and spirits. . . . Along with other families, they weave in and out of one another’s lives, building an edifice of domestic tranquility that increasingly becomes a house of cards. . . . Byatt fills a huge canvas with the political and social changes that swept the world in those years, and the devastation of war that swept its families. She elicits great compassion for the individual beings caught in that tableau. It’s not a tale you’ll soon forget.” —Susan Kelly, USA Today

“Engaging and rewarding . . . Spanning the two and a half decades before the First World War, [The Children’s Book] centers on the Wellwood family, led by a banker with radical inclinations and his wife, the author of best-selling fairy tales. At their country estate, they preside over a motley brood of children and host midsummer parties for fellow-Fabians, exiled Russian anarchists, and German puppeteers. But the idyll contains dark secrets, as a potter whom the family takes in for a time discovers. Byatt is concerned with the complex, often sinister relationship between parent and child, which she explores through various works of art, using them to refract and illuminate the larger narrative.” —The New Yorker

>“Rich, expansive . . . a portrait of a time of imminent change—the years [in England] when the Victorian golden age depreciated into Edwardian silver and then, with World War I, into an ‘age of lead.’ The novel’s early sections take us to the country home of the Wellwoods, who welcome a lost youth into their midst. . . . In watching Byatt’s characters, especially parents who insist on clear paths for their young though their own lives are anything but clear, the simple message of that story—that no one is ever in total control—shows The Children’s Book is a title that applies to everyone.”
—Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times Book Review