Your audiobook is waiting…

The Children’s Book

Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
Length: 32 hrs and 17 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

Famous author Olive Wellwood writes a special private book, bound in different colours, for each of her children. In their rambling house near Romney Marsh they play in a story-book world - but their lives, and those of their rich cousins and their friends, the son and daughter of a curator at the new Victoria and Albert Museum, are already inscribed with mystery. Each family carries its own secrets.  

They grow up in the golden summers of Edwardian times, but as the sons rebel against their parents and the girls dream of independent futures, they are unaware that in the darkness ahead they will be betrayed unintentionally by the adults who love them. This is the children's book.  

Cover illustration © Aitch

©2009 A. S. Byatt (P)2019 Audible, Ltd

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    0
  • 4 Stars
    1
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Performance

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    0
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
No Reviews are Available
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for D.O.
  • D.O.
  • 03-24-19

Intelligent and complex book, beautifully read...

I am not sure that I would have been able to complete a reading of the book, so the audio has been great for allowing the sprawling and ever shifting narrative to just keep on and on as it moves from character to character and place to place. I was pleased to find that Juliet Stevenson was the narrator -- great timing and emphasis. The book is extraordinary in so many ways -- especially for the sheer amount of historical research that is studded through the plot as it traces a group of variously intertwined characters towards the terrible annihilation of the first world war. I have been carrying around the listening -- all 32 hours (!!!!) -- over the last few weeks and become more and more immersed. My family wondered if I was ok as I always had headphones on! A compelling book: art, families, women, children, men -- puppets and politics. The ending leaves so many threads unaccounted for...but I think this reflects a commitment to the complex realism of the book that takes in so much any neat ending would have felt fraudulent. This has been one of the best books that I have experienced in an audio format.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Alison
  • Alison
  • 07-19-19

I wanted to love it...

...but even with a great narrator, I didn't love this book. I didn't hate it, or give up but it was a bit of a slog at times.

There are very few characters to like, for a start, despite a cast of thousands. I only really liked a few. The story is really just a time-line of their lives. Sometimes momentous things happen, but often with little explanation. Mostly, very little happens. Usually that is fine with me, but this was often dull.

There is a clever and creepy sense of menace or taint at the heart of almost all the relationships. So I suppose that echoes the suspense and fear that is often present in traditional fairy stories.

It is beautifully read and that is probably why I stuck it out to the end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 05-20-19

Exasperating and engaging in equal measure

The beautiful narration kept me going with this book although there were several times that I had to stop the story and walk away. The relentlessly detailed descriptions of everything - dresses and hats ,tea services ,bed linen , glazes - became extremely tedious, and the very large cast of characters was at least earlier on difficult to keep up with. it is of course beautifully written, though I did at times feel like i was in a lecture theatre -the frequent digressions were just too lengthy and didactic and distracted from the plotline.. Some more editing would have been good at times. Am still ploughing on as I've committed so much time to it already.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for J. O'connor
  • J. O'connor
  • 09-29-19

Truly Wonderful

A long and mesmerising story of a group of families, wound around themes of art, love, secrets, betrayal, class, politics and eventually war. Juliet Stevenson's narration is impeccable and fully immerses you in the character's lives. It is fascinating in its descriptions of art and its processes and deeply moving in the epic events of the families lives. One of the best books I've listened to.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Falluntilyoufly
  • Falluntilyoufly
  • 06-11-19

Funny, poignant, complex – with excellent reading

A wonderful almost-epic about the life and loves of two-and-a-half generations of an extended family and friends, spanning the closing years of the 19th century to the end of the first World War. Plenty of class assumption and cliché from A. S. Byatt, but (for me, at least) this is more than balanced by the subtleties that emerge from her characterisation. She conducts a surprisingly absorbing forensic examination of the conscious and unconscious minds of her characters, comparing inner with outer to knit her characters together into a web that becomes resilient and toughened over decades - for good and bad.

Byatt doesn't spare the Bohemian blushes (I'll try to do this without spoilers): Herbert Methley preys on young women under the guise of a new philosophy of free love, and his victims are rescued by the women connected to him whose class and fellow-feeling does not allow them to name him. Benedict Fludd, a Gill-reminiscent figure of acknowledged genius, pulls his family into a dark undertow that can't be easily escaped until the younger generation emerge to make their own happier connections. Olive Wellwood, the writer at the heart of her own story, preys in a different, ostensibly benign, way on her own children and her sister, with tragic results. I won't say there's comedy - Byatt isn't great at laughs - but there are many lighter moments and a spirit of survival pervades the whole.

It's a typical Byatt story in that it starts with the characters, from which all else builds. It is a masterclass, in fact, of character-driven story over plot. In The Children's Book, the characters are closely drawn and beautifully consistent with themselves over time, while remaining surprising on occasion. Nobody ever does or even says something that you feel is inconsistent with their unique self; a considerable achievement that couldn't be said of many latter-day writers. For all else that she isn't, Byatt IS a writer who treats her characters in good faith - and this brings them fully, delightfully, disturbingly, alive.

Which is why the ending of the book is so painful. I won't say any more, but I wept with each casual sentence setting out the fate of each of "Todefright's bright boys", some of which brought a neat, understated reckoning for the sins of the parents: the later reckoning of the War Office that brothers should not be assigned to the same regiments, for instance.

And the performance. Well, I love Juliet Stevenson's audiobooks anyway, and this is well up to her usual standard: a delight from start to finish, a pitch-perfect rendition delivered with care and considerable style. I particularly welcomed her Northern accent for the Grimwith sisters. It made of the whole something surprisingly robust but delicate, a mirror of the story itself.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Deborah Seton
  • Deborah Seton
  • 04-17-19

Hmmm...

Hmm, this is such a tricksy title to review... On the one hand, I really appreciate the work that has gone into creating this very accomplished novel but, on the other, I don't think I can really say that I "liked it" in the widest sense.

There are a lot of characters in the story and whilst they're mostly well fleshed out, very few are that likeable and most are a bit irritating, plus it does make for a rather confusing landscape. Given that I listened to it on audible rather than having a book in my hands where I could flick back and forth, that will certainly have an impact on my experience of reading, but my irritation at the characters would have been there, regardless.

Not sure I'll read another A S Byatt for a while.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for A. Shea
  • A. Shea
  • 03-31-19

Sublime

An incredible book with a superb reading. I’ve not heard a narrator who can beat Juliet Stevenson, and she’s the perfect choice for this complex, moving and fascinating story. Thoroughly recommended.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for kitty whately
  • kitty whately
  • 03-12-19

Just too overwritten

Unbelievably dull. Couldn’t stick with it. So many names and dates and unnecessary details. Gave up a few hours in. Love Juliet Stevenson, but even she couldn’t make me stick with this one.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful