Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Children’s Book is Alright

My goal for reading the four books I received for Christmas 2010 has failed save for one book: A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. 
(Book cover of A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book.)

Reading is an investment in time and can be rated in degrees of pleasure; and, if time and pleasure can be calculated, The Children’s Book can be measured more in time rather than pleasure, but not by much; indeed though, the balance was off for the book took me a long time to read despite the pleasure it afforded.
For instance, it took almost 200 pages, of an almost 900 page book, for me to care about any of the characters.  I suspect this is because (1) there was no central character that one gets to know and love (or hate) and (2) because there were so many characters, I couldn’t remember who was who.
(Picture of A.S. Byatt)

By the end of The Children’s Book, I was left with two questions:
1.       What was the central plot; and,
2.       What was the point?
I think I can answer the first question, in theory.  The underlying plot can be understood in terms of a time period, the Edwardian Era.  It was an era of transition – like the 60s and 70s say – that saw the end of Victorian sentimentality and hinted at what would become Modernism.  The Edwardian Era ended quite suddenly with the onset of World War I, where, worse than in a Shakespeare tragedy – spoiler alert – many of characters in The Children’s Book die, which leads me to my second question: what was the point?  Too which, I have no fundamental answer. 
I have to confess Byatt’s The Children’s Book took me a long time read; so long in fact, that I’m too embarrassed to note, but, I'll note this:  I finished the book on July 4th, 2010.  I always make a point of writing the date I finished a book on the back of the front cover.

In conclusion, I think I would say, if you like "the classics" - whatever that means - and if you take pleasure in character driven novels, then you will like Byatt’s The Children’s Book.
(Picture of Hilary Mantel and Wolf Hall) Photo: EPA

Currently, I’m reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall which was a book club recommendation.  The club is called The Booker’s Club and Wolf Hall was my recommendation. 

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