My reviewrating: 5 of 5 stars
Before I go any further, I should say that I love Byatt's work; when I read about this book, I sent to Canada to get a copy as the US edition hadn't yet been released.
This is a Family Saga, only covering many intertwined families and friends rather than many generations. The detail of British history (the Victorian Era, Fabianism, pottery, children's books, etc.) is Byatt's exacting best, giving the reader places to pause as the plot moves forward. The characters are all complex; some you start out liking and end up realizing that they're not worthy of that, while some are the reverse. Only a few remain steady, and those are generally minor characters. Ending with WWI, many of the boys we first meet die (and almost all the deaths are described) while the girls are changed almost beyond recognition.
As with Babel Tower, there's another story (ok, in this case, several stories) intertwined with the Real Story. Here, these are the children's stories Olive writes, the Children's Books. They seemed nicer than the BT tale, although each had a kernel of nasty inside. I also appreciated that the sex was implied or gently described rather than reaching BT's graphic quality.
I know some people have been scarred by reading Byatt. This is the book for those people to give her another try.
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