readings: the children’s book

22 05 2009

After finishing Byatt’s The Children’s Book a couple of days ago, I found myself in a bit of a muddle.  I felt like some of the characters in the novel – the women in the Fludd house – who are described many times as not quite there, somehow distanced from things, and that was my feeling on closing the final page.

To begin with, it felt like I was reading it all the time and not making any headway.  And by the end, I felt like threads that I thought important, really weren’t by the end, and characters that I thought somewhat secondary became much more of a focus.  There were also points in the last third where I felt like I was reading more of a history book than a novel with Byatt’s listing and description of all these different historical events that happened in different years.

I did enjoy the children’s stories that were inserted in the narrative, and I didn’t scan and skip as I did with the poems in Possession (I know they were important and had certain clues, but I just wanted to find out how it all turned out).  The end section – the WWI one – seemed rushed to me and I felt I needed more, though as I said the reading of it felt very long and expanding the WWI section would have probably made the book too heavy to keep propped up.

I know that everything I’ve said as been negative, but I didn’t really dislike the book.  I didn’t feel much of anything really, which might be worse.  I did enjoy the use of pottery and it made me really want to see the creations of the potters in the book.  I think the book dealt with some very big ideas and had a great to say, but I’m still trying to puzzle out what all of that meant to me.

Up next is The Winter Vault which I received through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.

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