Category Archives: Booker

A Midnight’s Children Group Read

Mrs. B. at The Literary Stew, Arti at Ripple Effects and Meredith at Dolce Bellezza are organizing a group read of  Salman Rushdie’s Booker of Bookers prize winning Midnight’s Children starting in March.  I’ve been meaning to get back to this novel for years and find this a perfect opportunity.

From The Literary Stew post:

Since Rushdie won’t be an easy read we decided to take this very slowly so this will be a long and relaxed group read. We don’t want it to interfere with other reading plans. The book has 533 pages and is divided into three parts with the second part being the longest. We’ll begin in March, and for four months at the last day of each month we’ll post our review.

Here’s the exact schedule for postings:

  • March 31 — Book One
  • April 30   — Book Two (Part A ending with ‘Alpha and Omega’)
  • May 31   —  Book Two (Part B starting with ‘The Kolynos Kid’)
  • June 30   —  Book Three
As you can see we’ll have more than enough time to get through the 533 pages. If you’d like to join, please let us know and take note of the schedule above. We’ll do a reminder post in early March.
I am excited to be reading this novel with others and look forward to some lively discussions.  If you are interested in joining in please visit any of the links to these wonderful blogs.

6 Comments

Filed under Booker, Events, Group Read, Salman Rushdie

Bookers

I’m not sure how I’m feeling about book prizes at the moment.   I picked up a couple more books from the Man Booker Prize longlist at my library, read them and didn’t enjoy them half as much as the last two books I read and reviewed.    They’re good but I didn’t think they were that good.  I found KevinfromCanada’s post  and the comments about the list helpful.  There is a lot of interesting discussion happening around the choices and the process of choosing books for prize lists.  Fascinating.

A Cupboard Full of Coats By Yvvette Edwards

One World Books, Oxford, 2011

Jinx is trying to live her life but carries the memory of  living with abuse and of her mother, murdered when Jinx was fourteen.  When an old family friend comes to visit they spend a weekend trying to deal with and honor the past.

Jinx is closed off from her ex-husband and her son.  She has walled herself in and it takes honesty and hard work, facing the truth of her past, to break down the walls.  This book is well-written, filled with the sights and sounds of the immigrant West Indian community living in London.  I have to say it never really grabbed me.

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller

Doubleday, New York, 2011

I heard about this one way back in January on the Guardian Books page, wanted to read it and waited for it to be released in the U.S.

I found the structure of this small novel interesting.  The protagonist is writing to his fiance, telling her about his past in Russsia.  He is writing because he wants her to know a truth about whom she is planning to marry.  As he tells this story we learn how during his time in Russia he constantly lied to himself about what was going on around him.  It reminded me a lot of how blind people can be to their own actions, even when they know better.  It is a snapshot of an amoral society, one we may be on the edge of falling into.

Nicholas Platt is a lawyer.  Leaving what he considers a dull life in England he has travels to Moscow and joins a law firm.  Nick is questioning his life and all he believes in when he helps two women who have been robbed.  Maybe one of these women is “the one”.  He is drawn into a love affair and imagines bringing Masha home to England.

The smell of the poplar trees crept in through the open windows of my kitchen, along with the sounds of sirens and breaking glass.  Some of me wanted her to be my future, and some other me wanted to do what I should have done, and throw the ticket with the phone number out the kitchen window and into the pink and promising evening air.  from page 19.

There are signs all around him,  a deal his firm is cutting that is not as sound as it should be.  His neighbor’s best friend disappearing.  But it is just easier to ignore the signs, to go along with it all, after all that is live in Moscow.

He opened his bag and took out a card with a double-headed eagle on one side and on the other a photo I.D.  It stated that he worked for the economic affairs secretariat at the Kremlin.  He twirled his contraband card between his fingers.  “Forbidden,” he said, “only means expensive.”  from page 192.

I actually enjoyed this one, felt is was an honest portrayal of a man adrift in modern culture.  I just wanted to scream at him, tell him to wake up.

5 Comments

Filed under Booker, ContemporaryFiction

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2011

Borrowed from my library.   I’ve been waiting for it to come in  since I heard about it on the Guardian website, back in early spring.  It is now on the longlist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

Harri Opuku, eleven years old and recently emigrated from Ghana, lives in a huge London housing project and loves to run.  When he finds himself standing near the body of a classmate whose blood has covered the walkway, stabbed by someone who probably lives in the same area.  He is driven, along with his friend Dean, to find the killer.

Stephen Kelman has created a character straight out of his personal history.  Harri is very like many eleven year old boys I know, curious, filled with excitement and the desire to grow up.  My favorite parts were his memories of life in Ghana, and the comparison with Harri’s present life.

Harri worked for me but other parts of this novel just didn’t hold together.  The other characters seem shallow, as if lifted out of a bad TV  series, and the inclusion of Harri’s pigeon seemed odd and out-of-place.  I’d love to have a glimpse of Kelman’s thinking behind that, and his need to write from Harri’s point-of view in the first place.

I think Pigeon English reads like a novel for young adults and I don’t quite understand why it made the Booker long list in the first place.  But that’s just me.  Have you read it?  What do you think?

14 Comments

Filed under Booker, LiteraryFiction, Review

In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar

In The Country Of Men by Hisham Matar

The Dial Press, New York, 2007

Borrowed from the library.  Shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize.

I found this a very timely read.  In Libya in 1979, 9 year-old Suleiman is enjoying all the pleasures of childhood.  Games with friends, visits to ancient ruins and the joy of  greeting his father returning from many business trips.  When his father is away his mother is often “ill”, something he felt  troubled by and responsible for.

Mama and I spent most of the time together – she alone, I unable to leave her.  I worried how the world might change if even for a second I was to look away, to relax the grip of my gaze.  I was convinced that if my attention was applied fully, disaster would be kept at bay and she would return whole and uncorrupted, no longer lost, stranded on the opposite bank, waiting alone.  But although her unpredictability and her urgent stories tormented me, my vigil and what I then could only explain as her illness bound us into an intimacy that has since occupied the inner most memory I have of love.  If love started somewhere, if it is a hidden force that is brought out by a person, like light off a mirror, for me that person was her.  There was anger, there was pity, even the dark warm embrace of hate, but always love and always the joy that surrounds the beginning of love.  from pages 20-21.

One day Suleiman sees his father crossing a public square and entering a building when he was supposed to be  on a business trip.  The boy notices people following his mother’s car.  His best friend’s father has been taken away.  He is trying to make sense of what is happening around him but that is impossible for this child.   He is living 10 years into the reign of Muanmar el-Qaddafi.

Matar writes beautifully, expressing the thoughts of nine-year-old Suleiman, his friends and the adults that surround him.  It is the voice of  Najwa, Suleiman’s mother, that I found most compelling.  She tells stories, much like Scheherezade, and yet she has little patience for the mythic storyteller calling her a coward and a slave.  She had been forced into a life, unable to make her own choices.

Sometimes she would say, “All you men,”  “All you men are the same, ” combining me not only with Baba but with many other men.  I never knew what to say to that.  I couldn’t possibly defend all of them: all her brothers and her father – the men she called the “High Council” – the men who met to decide her fate when she was only fourteen, after she was seen sitting across from a boy in the Italian Coffee House.  And all the other men who met at the Italian Coffee House, where talk started and things were decided. from page 144.

It is clear to me that Hisham Matar is aware of  the struggle for women’s equality alongside the struggle for democracy in his home country.  Here is a link to an  NPR interview with the author on the power of Libyan fiction.

Other reviews: An Adventure In ReadingFizzy ThoughtsPage after Page, The Curious Reader

4 Comments

Filed under Booker, LiteraryFiction, Review

The Inheritance of Loss By Kiran Desai

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Grove Press, New York, 2006

From my own TBR pile. This novel won the 2006 Man Booker Prize and was shortlisted for the 2007 Orange Prize.  I read this book for Orange July.  Desai begins her novel with a poem by Jorge Luis Borges.  It’s themes wind throughout The Inheritance of Loss.

BOAST OF QUIETNESS
Writings of light assault the darkness, more prodigous than meteors.
The tall unknowable city takes over the countryside.
Sure of my life and death, I observe the ambitious
and would like to understand them.
Their day is greedy as a lariat in the air.
Their night is a rest from the rage within steel, quick to attack.
They speak of humanity.
My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of the same poverty.
They speak of homeland.
My homeland is the rythym of a guitar, a few portraits, an old sword,
the willow grove’s visible prayer as evening falls.
Time is living me.
More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous multitude.
They are indispensible, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away
he doesn’t expect to arrive.

JORGE LUIS BORGES

Recently orphaned, Sai arrives at her Grandfather’s isolated house, nestled at the foot of Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the Himalayas.  The cook fusses over, feeds her and cares for her and her Grandfather, an embittered retired Judge.  But Cook is distracted, thinking of his son, Biju, an illegal immigrant finding work in one restaurant after another deep in  New York City.

There are many others involved in this story, all of them portrayed with great humor and compassion.

Sai and cook trudged down the long path that traveled thin and black as a rat snake up and down the hills, and the cook showed her the landmarks of her new home, pointed out the houses and told her who lived where.  There was Uncle Potty, of course, their nearest neighbor, who had bought his land from the judge years ago, a gentleman farmer and a drunk; and his friend Father Booty of the Swiss dairy, who spent each evening drinking with Uncle Potty…Opposite the hen house, so they could get their eggs easily, lived a pair of Afghan princesses whose father had gone to Brighton on holiday and returned to find the British had seated someone else on his throne….

And finally there was Noni (Nonita), who lived with her sister Lola (Lalita) in a rose-covered cottage maned Mon Ami.  When Lola’s husband had died of a heart attack, Noni, the spinster, had moved in with her sister, the widow.  They lived on his pension, but still they needed more money, what with endless repairs being done to the house, the price of everything rising in the bazaar, and the wages of their maid, sweeper, watchman, and gardener.  From page 47.

The novel jumps between continents, between time periods and between peoples’ stories to unveil their personal and political histories.  It rushes, portraying the desires of those who wish to come to the United States and prosper, in a way that is unnerving. It shows that this dream can be a nightmare.   Then The Inheritance of Loss suddenly slows, stepping in to a forest below the Himalayas where you can feel the humid air and hear the rustle of leaves.  It is quite rich and beautifully written,  packed with humor and the excitement and terror that fills our world.  At times it is almost too much and I would have to stop reading, take a break, but I always went back for more.

Desai’s writing has inspired me to find out more about the geography and political history of this area of India.  I normally read with an atlas nearby but The Inheritance of Loss has me digging deeper. I want to read more history, both ancient and modern.   I would also like to read more fiction based in Bengal and Nepal.  Any Suggestions?

Other reviews:

Caribousmom

Musings

Shelf Life

The Book Lady’s Blog

The Magic Lasso

14 Comments

Filed under Booker, India, LiteraryFiction, OrangePrize, Review

February By Lisa Moore

February by Lisa Moore

Black Cat, New York, 2009

This novel was on the long list for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.  I borrowed it from the library.

February is the first book I have read by Lisa Moore and I loved it, was moved by it.  It is the story of Helen O’Mara, her four children and a tragedy, the sinking of an oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland.  Helen’s husband, Cal, dies on that rig, leaving Helen to raise her children.  The accident is based based on a true event.

On February 15th, 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank 165 miles east of Newfoundland, taking the lives of all 84 men on board.  Many years later this event still has an impact on the lives of  the people of Newfoundland.

Moore tells this story in several voices, shifting back and forth in time, and it helps that the heading of each small section includes the year.  Helen’s is the main focus, her devastation at the loss of her husband and her split lives,  one holding the world together for her children, the other drifting, without an anchor, in a place separate from others, barely surviving the grief, the inability to understand, just hanging on by a thread.   She lives in the present and she lives in the past with her husband, going over each tiny piece of their life together as if turning something precious in her hands.  Why did they make the choices they did?

There were men who would kill to have this job: that was the wisdom they worked under.  And: the helicopter was a terror.  But it was impossible to imagine the whole rig capsizing.
If the men did imagine it they did not tell their wives; they did not tell their mothers.  They developed a morbid humor that didn’t translate on land, so they kept it mostly on the rig. From page 97.

Her son John has just learned that he is about to be a father and is returning home for her support.  He is also overwhelmed by memories.

John remembers being in the back seat of the car with his sisters and going down Garrison Hill.  Coming up over Bonaventure, his father would gun it, saying they were going straight for the harbour.  Her and Cathy and Lulu in the back and his mother in her red wet-look hot pants suit.  His stomach would lift when they went over the top of the hill and came down, like being in an elevator.  The little bounce the car made.  The girls screaming.  His mother wore big sunglasses and hoop earrings and she had long legs, his father tended to her hand and foot.  Flying over the Garrison Hill, the east end lost in fog.  The bells of the Basilica.  From page 106.

A novel like February could have been written in ways that are overwrought and maudlin, but Moore side-steps this by using clear, descriptive language to focus the reader on her character’s thoughts and feelings.  At times this feels thin, almost shallow,  but then I felt as if I was walking on a very fine sheet of ice, and below there was all that depth, the cold weight of great loss.   Even though I have not been through anything like Helen’s tragedy, I empathized with her and often found myself right there in that place of fragility, fighting off despair.  Moore writes with words that are beautiful and evocative.  I will read more of her work.

The snow was lifting off the drifts in transparent glittering sheets that twisted and flapped and folded together at the corners and folded again, and she could hear someone’s tires squealing on the road.  The tires were burning and squealing and the engine was growling and it was such a magnificent morning and her knees gave.  The trees were encased in ice and the sun shot sparkles down the length of the branches.  The sun was like an old nickel in the sky, tarnished, dull, behind all the flying snow. Helen’s knees would not hold her.  The whole world floods you, bursts you open; the world is bigger than expected, and brighter.  From page 270.

To read other thoughts about February visit these links:

dovegreyreader scribbles

KevinfromCanada

Monniblog

My Novel Reviews

nomadreader

7 Comments

Filed under Booker, CanadianBookChallenge4, ContemporaryFiction, New Authors 2010, Review

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Riverhead Books, New York, 2009

Borrowed from the library.  This book was on the short list for the 2009 Man Booker prize.

This is my second Sarah Waters novel.  It is very much a ghost story, dark and dense with atmosphere, the type of writing Waters excels at.

In 1940’s England Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid, is called to Hundreds Hall, a fine old manor in the countryside. But the Doctor finds the residence of the Ayres family is falling into disrepair.

The story ran on, Caroline and Roderick prompting more of it;  they spoke to each other rather than to me, and, shut out of the game, I looked from mother to daughter to son and finally caught the likenesses between them, not just the similarities of feature-the long limbs, the high set eyes-but the almost clannish little tricks of gesture and speech.  And I felt a flicker of impatience with them-the faintest stirring of a dark dislike-and my pleasure at the lovely room was slightly spoiled.  Perhaps it was the peasant blood in me, rising.  But Hundred Hall had been made and maintained, I thought, by the very people they were laughing at now.  After two hundred years, those people had begun to withdraw their labour, their belief in the house; and the house was collapsing like a pyramid of cards.  Meanwhile, here the family sat, playing gaily at gentry life, with the chipped stucco on their walls, and their Turkey carpets worn to the weave, and their riveted china…from page 25.

Mrs. Ayres, daughter Caroline, and son Roderick are losing control of the land and the house around them.  Roderick, wounded in the war, is trying to manage the house and the farm, and with his failing health, is not doing too well.  Or is it more than his health that is causing this failure?  As the tension builds within this family and within this house,  unexplained things begin to happen.  Dr. Faraday finds himself deeply involved with an outcome he couldn’t possible have expected.  As with Fingersmith it is hard to say more without giving too much away.

In many ways the novel’s tension reminds me of  The Turn of the Screw by Henry James but the time period and the war add a disheveled, chaotic element to the story. There is the tension in the traditional ideas of class that are slowly dissolving around these characters, and certain elements of family history that add to the haunted feel of the novel.  The house takes on a life of its own, it begins to feel alive. Waters skill at characterization shines,  her characters are alive, she has uncovered their fears and fantasies.  She is a master at drawing out the intricacies of human thought and emotion, of getting inside her characters heads.

I liked The Little Stranger.  It is a creepy,  chilling tale.  I will read more of Waters’ novels in the future.

Other reviews:

Farm Lane Books

Regular Rumination

Shelf Love

You Gotta Read This

Did you read and review this book?

20 Comments

Filed under Booker, GLBT 2010, Historical Fiction, Review

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Henry Holt & Co., New York, 2009

Winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

Borrowed from my local library.

This book will be on my top 10 list for 2010.  It may even be my favorite book of the year.  Wait, you ask, it is only the middle of January, how can you say that?  I say that because Mantel has created a world so full and rich that I didn’t want to leave it.  She has given me a place as vivid as the streets of my own city, as lively as my favorite café.  She has introduced me to characters that I want to talk to, that I wish to comfort and, sometimes, to scream at.

Of course, that is impossible, we are centuries and worlds apart.  After all, this is fiction.  Immersed in the history of early 16th century Britain, Mantel tells the story of one man, Thomas Cromwell.   With roots in the lower class, Cromwell, the son of a brewer and blacksmith, rises  to become a confidant to Cardinal Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor to King Henry VIII.  Eventually Cromwell becomes the King’s chief minister  and the enemy of  Thomas More, staunch supporter of the Pope.  Henry, afraid of dying without a legitimate heir, wishes to annul his first marriage and marry another.  There are multiple threads of politics, sex and double-dealing and, of course, the King’s battle with the Catholic Church.  But this book is so much more than another fictionalized account of that time in history.

Wolf Hall is dense, dark and rich in a way that made me slow down my reading and savor every page.  What I really want to do here is quote many passages that leaped out at me but I will limit myself to a few.

An introduction to young Thomas Cromwell:

He is surprised.  Are there people in the world who are not cruel to their children?  For the first time the weight in his chest shifts a little; he thinks, there could be other places, better.  He talks; he tells them about Bella, and they look sorry, and they don’t say anything stupid like, you can get another dog.  He tells them about the Pegasus, and about his father’s brewhouse and how Walter gets fined for bad beer at least twice a year.  He tells them about how he gets fines for stealing wood, cutting down other peoples trees, and about the too-many sheep he runs on the commons…from page 12.

After he loses his wife to fever:

For a month he is at home: he reads.  He reads his Testament, but he knows what it says.  he reads Petrarch, whom he loves, reads how he defied the doctors: when they had given him up to fever he lived still, and when they came back in the morning, he was sitting up writing.  The poet never trusted any doctor after that; but Liz left him too fast for physician’s advice, good or bad, or for the apothecary with his cassia, his galingale, his wormwood, and his printed cards with prayers on.  From page 86

On viewing a carpet at Thomas More’s house:

It’s beautiful, he says, not wanting to spoil his pleasure.  But next time, he thinks, take me with you.  His hand skims the surface, rich and soft.  The flaw in the weave hardly matters.  A turkey carpet is not an oath.  There are some people in the world who like everything squared up and precise, and there are those who will allow some drift at the margins.  He is both these kinds of person.  He would not allow, for example, a careless ambiguity in a lease, but instinct tells him that sometimes a contract need not be drawn too tight.  Leases, writs, statutes, all are written to be read, and each person reads them by the light of self-interest.  More says, “What do you think, gentlemen?  Walk on it, or hang it on the wall?”

“Walk on it.”

“Thomas, your luxurious tastes!”  And they laugh.  You would think they were friends.  From pages 187/188.

Cromwell observing King Henry:

You could watch Henry every day for a decade and not see the same thing.  Choose your prince: he admires Henry more and more.  Sometimes he seems hapless, sometimes feckless, sometimes a child, sometimes master of his trade.  Sometimes he seems an artist, in the way his eye ranges over his work; sometimes his hand moves and he doesn’t seem to see it move.  If he had been called to a lower station in live, he could have been a traveling player, and leader of his troupe.  From page 357

Mantel places Cromwell in the third person and some readers find this difficult.  It did not really bother me.  I rather enjoy the rhythm of shifting from Cromwell’s thoughts to observing him from some close vantage point. The only part I found awkward was trying to keep track of the different Royal lineages, and Mantel, or her editors, have graciously placed a list of characters and the Tudor and Yorkist family trees at the front of the book.

I find it hard to say more about Wolf Hall.  I really love Mantel’s style, her intelligence, and her trust in my abilities as a reader.  I will read this book again.

Other reviews:

As usual, I Need More Bookshelves

Booklust

Boston Bibliophile

Fleur Fisher Reads

Savidge Reads

Did I miss yours?

23 Comments

Filed under 2010 Global Reading Challenge, Booker, Challenges2010, Historical Fiction, New Authors 2010, Notable Books

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt

The Children’s Book by A.S.Byatt

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2009

675 pages

Borrowed from the library.

There is no way to read this book quickly, it is just too dense and rich.  I want to read it again, right now, but have had to return it to my library as many people wish to read it.  I will have to have my own copy.

Hiding in the basement of the half-built Victoria and Albert museum is a young ragamuffin so enthralled by the objects he sees in those great halls that he must draw them.  This is Phillip.  Two boys, Julian, who’s father works there, and his friend Tom, see this strange boy.  There is a chase and Phillip is found out.  He is brought before Julian’s father and Tom’s mother, Olive Wellwood, a famous childrens book author.  So begins The Children’s Book.

This  is a magnificent confection, a multi-tiered wedding cake of a novel.  A.S. Byatt writes the densest, most tangled sentences I know of, and I love every one of them.  Taking place at the turn of the Twentieth Century and covering the time through World War One, The Children’s Book is a saga involving multiple families with multiple children, all intertwined.  There are different kinds of family dynamics, many kinds relationships and no way to write a synopsis of what happens.  There is no simple plot line, no single character to love or hate.   The story is a fabulous mingling of fairytales, summer parties, plays, puppets, pottery, politics, sex, the Paris Exposition of 1900, the Arts and Crafts movement,  the Back to Nature movement,  women’s suffrage, anarchists,  socialists,  aristocrats, education, labor and the European Royal families.  There’s more, so much more that some reviewers just can’t make sense of this book.

Mostly,  it’s a novel about the stories families tell each other and about memory, but, oh, there is really no simple way to describe it.  Here’s some bits about family:

Everyone, old and young, now gathered for a kind of sumptuous picnic.  As happens at such gatherings, where those whose lives are shaped, fortunately or unfortunately, are surrounded by those whose lives are almost entirely to come, the elders began asking the young what they meant to do with their lives, and to project futures for them. From page 56.

A family, and a human being inside a family, put together a picture of their past in voluntary and involuntary ways, carefully constructed, arbitrarily dictated.  A mother remembers one particular summer gathering on a lawn, with iced lemonade in a jug, and everyone smiling — as she puts in the album the one photograph where everyone is smiling, and keeps the scowling faces of the unsuccessful snapshots hidden in a box.  A child remembers one scramble over the Downs, or zigzag trot through the woods, one of many, many forgotten ones, and shapes his identity around it.  “I remember when I saw the yaffle.” And the memory changes when he is twelve, and fourteen, and twenty, and forty, and eighty, and prehaps never at any of those points representing precisely anything that really happened.  Odd things persist for inexplicable reasons.  A pair of shoes that never quite fitted.  A party dress in which a girl always felt awkward, though the photographs were pretty enough.  One violent quarrel of many arising from the unjust division of a cake, or the desperately disappointing decision not to go to the seaside.  There are things, also, that are memories as essential and structural  as bones in toes and fingers.  A red leather belt.  A dark pantry full of obscene and lovely jars.  From page 329.

And about puppetry and the theater:

An illusion is a complicated thing, and an audience is a complicated creature.  Both need to be brought from flyaway parts to a smooth, composite whole.  The world inside the box, a world made of silk, satin, china mouldings, wires, hinges, painted backcloths, moving lights and musical notes, must come alive with its own laws of movement, its own rules of story.  And the watchers, wide-eyed and greedy, distracted and supercilious, preoccupied, uncomfortable, tense, must become one, as a shoal of fishes with huge eyes and flickering fins becomes one, wheeling this way and that in response to messages of hunger, fear or delight.  August’s flute was heard, and some were ready to listen and some were not.  The curtains opened on a child’s bedroom.  He sat against his pillows.  His nurse, in comfortable grey, bustled about him, and her shadow loomed over him on the white wall.  From page 80.

And about women’s lives:

“I want to think.  Just as much as Charles does, but no one cares what I want to think about, as they do with him, whether they are for or against what he thinks is important.”

“I want to think, too, ” said Florence, slowly.  “I want a life of my own, that I choose.  I want to be someone, not someone’s wife.  But I don’t know much about the someone I want to be.”

“Nor do I.  Dorothy does.  She’s got a vocation.  She’s got her future all planned out, general science exams, medical exams, surgical exams, a place in a hospital.  It’s like an iron corset, I think, but she seems to need it.  I think she is prepared to give up on the marriage thing.  I don’t know that I would be.  It would seem unnatural.  But surely so does not thinking.

“Some women do both.” From page 495.

And a beautiful bit about walking on the seashore:

You have to think about walking on pebbles.  Every time you put your feet down, the pebble impress themselves, hard and recalcitrant, through the soles of your shoes.  They slide treacherously in front of you, to your side, you bow and recover yourself, you lean your body forward in the wind, which is usually fierce onto the shore, which takes your hair back over your head, which goes in and through the spiralling channels of you ears, feeling for your brain.  Tom like the pebbles.  They were fragments of huge boulders from the cliffs at the edge of England, boulders which had been soft chalk and hard flint, and were now rounded by water throwing them up and grinding them together.  They are all the same and none of them exactly the same, Tom thought, pleased with this idea, like human beings — was it innumerable as stars, or innumerable as sands, and where did it come from?  It didn’t matter… From page 585.

I could just keep quoting.  I am in awe of the amount of research and work A.S. Byatt put into this novel.  I honor her love of the tale.  I have only read her short stories.  Now I must read everything she has written, and wait for the next novel.

Here is a wonderful article about The Children’s Book from the New York Times.

Palissy Pitcher

A Pitcher by Palissy 1520-1590

Other reviews:

book i done read

Boston Bibliophile

Eve’s Alexandria

Savidge Reads

The Indextrious Reader

things mean a lot

Did I miss your review?  Leave a comment.

21 Comments

Filed under Booker, Historical Fiction, Notable Books, Review