e99 Online Shopping Mall

Geometry.Net - the online learning center Help  
Home  - Authors - Byatt A S (Books)

  1-20 of 100 | Next 20
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  

click price to see details     click image to enlarge     click link to go to the store

1. The Children's Book (Vintage International)
2. Possession
3. Sugar and Other Stories
4. The Biographer's Tale: A Novel
5. Still Life
6. The Virgin in the Garden
7. A.S. Byatt: The Essential Guide
8. Elementals: Stories of Fire and
9. Little Black Book of Stories
10. A.S. Byatt's Possession: A Reader's
11. Babel Tower
12. Identity and Cultural Memory in
13. Angels & Insects: Two Novellas
14. A Whistling Woman
15. The Game: A Novel
16. The Matisse Stories
17. Possession : A Romance (Modern
18. Vintage Byatt
19. A. S. Byatt: Art, Authorship,
20. Imagining Characters: Six Conversations

1. The Children's Book (Vintage International)
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 896 Pages (2010-08-10)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$9.89
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307473066
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

From the Booker Prize-winning, bestselling author of Possession: a deeply affecting story of a singular family.
When children’s book author Olive Wellwood’s oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of a museum, she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends. But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. The Wellwoods’ personal struggles and hidden desires unravel against a breathtaking backdrop of the cliff-lined shores of England to Paris, Munich, and the trenches of the Somme, as the Edwardian period dissolves into World War I and Europe’s golden era comes to an end.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (94)

4-0 out of 5 stars Thorougly Byatt, but Distinctive
I read somewhere once that, while Americans read books, Europeans read authors.While I am an American, I choose to read in the European manner and A.S. Byatt is one of "my" authors.I have read every work of fiction that Byatt has written, including the novels, novellas and short stories.The Booker prize winning "Possession" is wonderful, but for me the tetralogy, beginning with "The Virgin in the Garden, and ending with "The Whistling Woman" stands as her crowning achievement."The Children's Book" is in some ways a typical Byatt outing, with wonderful, at times soaring, prose and highly developed characterization.Like the tetralogy, "The Children's Book" focuses on works of art (pottery, theater, puppetry, fairy tales) that carry the main narrative themes and deeper meanings Byatt conveys in the novels.Yet this book is not like the others in some important respects.For one, I found that "Book" lacks a truly central protagonist.At first I thought Byatt was placing Olive Wellwood in that role, but the story does not revolve around her the way the tetralogy revolves around Frederica.The story meanders in and out of her sphere and other characters, notably the young potter Phillip, have nearly the claim she does to the central role.In this respect "Book" is more similar to "Possession."Like "Possession," each of the books in the tetralogy focus on a single work of art, but "Book" offers a wider menu of art forms in an attempt to convey the spirit of an entire age, that is, the late Victorian and Georgian periods.A challenging book, I found "The Children's Book" an engrossing read that successfully captured the energy, tumult, and ultimately doomed optimism of the period leading up to the First World War.About half way through the book I realized that I was reading a tragedy; that the lives of several of the characters would end in the trenches or be radically transformed by crash of their civilization. Though not my favorite novel by Byatt, it is a notable achievement that confirms her position as one of my favorite authors.

4-0 out of 5 stars Very satisfying, until the end
I generally don't tackle books over 400 pages; I'm an unreliable reader.But this was the only non-pulp book I could find on a recent trip to Croatia.Surprisingly, I enjoyed it very much, including all the historical details about socialists, utopian communities, artists, etc.I cared about the characters.It kept my interest.I was on the side of "this is full, not overstuffed" until the last 75 pages or so, when she tried to stuff WWI, with a lot of gory detail, into the end.I wish she'd found a different way, 75 pages earlier, to end it.Still, overall recommended.

4-0 out of 5 stars Buried beneath is a nugget of a story about families
A S Byatt is a Serious Literary Novelist, not a popular fiction writer, so it's hardly surprising that many readers have found her latest Booker shortlisted title "The Children's Book (TCB)" to be difficult and impenetrable. Her famous "Possession" may boast a more distinct and compelling storyline - it was made into a Hollywood movie minus the arty trappings and so has acquired a place in the popular imagination - though that doesn't alter the fact that readers have to negotiate past pages thick with poetry and art history to get to the plot. And it's no different with TCB, except that it's that much harder to summarise in a sentence or two what the book is about.

Unlike "Possession", there are no real main characters or protagonists in TBC. Rather, the book is about a certain artistic community comprising writers, intellectuals, museum curators, potters, artisans, etc belonging to a particularly confusing time in English history (early 20th century) marked by a sudden great gush of social movements drawing attention to the plight of the poor and issues of universal suffrage, the emancipation of women, the provision of education and healthcare to the masses. As girls from privileged homes start to think of proper careers for themselves and boys from underprivileged homes dare to dream beyond the dictates of their own class restrictions, the looming dark forces of imperialism would collide and throw their orderly world into turmoil culminating in the First World War.

Against this backdrop, Byatt weaves together an intriguing yet chilling tale of families (eg, the Wellwoods, Fludds, Cains, etc) to reveal a sordid underbelly of disturbing lies and secrets that remain firmly underground beneath the midsummer nights tale type fanstasy world they create with their regular performances in each other's splendid homes until the inevitable happens. The truths about their lives are instead hinted at if not conveyed through the stories fantasy book writer Olive Wellwood writes for each of her children. Interestingly enough, overarching Byatt's story about families in the Edwardian era is another story of European royals bound inextricably to each other by blood about to confront the contradictions between their imperialistic ambitions and their ties.

Buried beneath a deep morass of cultural and social details that would mean nothing to readers unfamiliar with European and English history is a nugget of a story waiting to be uncovered. Trouble is, Byatt couldn't decide whether TCB should be a social and cultural treatise of early 20th England or a fictional story about families. Neither fish nor fowl, TCB falls between two stools and loses a wider readership it clearly merits. Casual readers will skim or skip whole paragraphs (sometimes even pages) to track the storyline. Less patient readers might simply give up without finishing the book. A pity, cos a worthwhile story lies buried beneath the mountain of artifacts.

I enjoyed TCB very much because I was mentally prepared for the challenge and determined to finish it. It is nevertheless not for the casual reader or the fainthearted. Difficult but worthwhile.

1-0 out of 5 stars long, slow and boring
Struggled through 150 pages, hoping for a plot, that pacing might pick up, but thinking at this time to abandon the effort.

4-0 out of 5 stars Another Winnning novel by A. S. Byatt
"Another superbly written work by the author of Possession. This runaway view of reality and art in pre-World War I England and Europe will dazzle you." ... Read more

2. Possession
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 576 Pages (1991-10-01)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$2.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679735909
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Actual Book Cover May Vary -- There are two covers available andorders are filled at random.

An exhilarating novel of wit and romance, an intellectual mystery, and a triumphant love story.This tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets became a huge bookseller favorite, and then on to national bestellerdom.Amazon.com Review
"Literary critics make natural detectives," says Maud Bailey, heroine of a mystery where the clues lurk in university libraries, old letters,and dusty journals. Together with Roland Michell, a fellow academic andaccidental sleuth, Maud discovers a love affair between the two Victorianwriters the pair has dedicated their lives to studying: Randolph Ash, aliterary great long assumed to be a devoted and faithful husband, andChristabel La Motte, a lesser-known "fairy poetess" and chaste spinster. Atfirst, Roland and Maud's discovery threatens only to alter the direction oftheir research, but as they unearth the truth about the long-forgottenromance, their involvement becomes increasingly urgent and personal.Desperately concealing their purpose from competing researchers, theyembark on a journey that pulls each of them from solitude and loneliness,challenges the most basic assumptions they hold about themselves, anduncovers their unique entitlement to the secret of Ash and La Motte'spassion.

Winner of the 1990 Booker Prize--the U.K.'s highest literaryaward--Possession is a gripping and compulsively readable novel. A.S.Byatt exquisitely renders a setting rich in detail and texture. Her lushimagery weaves together the dual worlds that appear throughout thenovel--the worlds of the mind and the senses, of male and female, ofdarkness and light, of truth and imagination--into an enchanted andunforgettable tale of love and intrigue. --Lisa Whipple ... Read more

Customer Reviews (232)

1-0 out of 5 stars Passionless and tiring central characters and a weak double ending
I stayed with this novel despite the frustration of dealing with the tedious poetry and passionless characters. Deconstructing literary researchers, dull and self-involved. Only briefly interesting beginning about page 250, and towards the very end when the book converted into a conventional, but second-rate Agatha Christie mystery, quickly answered. The novel ended with an unconvincing bedding of the two main characters, followed by an almost as weak second ending. Two weak endings don't provide a strong end. In summary, this was "twits and twats, academics all, searching for lives." My rating is actually a 1.5, but I can't in good conscience give it a lenient 2.0.

5-0 out of 5 stars Simply, a beautifully written and wholly involving story
One sort of novel is the straightforward narrative that deviates hardly at all from a single course, that charges ahead from beginning to end. Another sort, though, is more like a faceted mirror-ball hanging above a dance floor, reflecting the light of its characters and language and plot in all directions, and constantly moving, constantly metamorphosing before the reader's eyes. This volume -- which won every award on offer and has become an undisputed modern classic -- is very much the latter sort of book. It's a "romance" in the Arthurian sense. Also, tardis-like, it seems much larger once you're inside it than it appeared from the outside. It all starts with Dr. Roland Michell, a mostly impoverished literary scholar and apprentice expert on Randolph Henry Ash, the great fictitious Victorian poet, who stumbles across the drafts of some letters written a century and a half ago and tucked inside a book now in the possession of the London Library. The letters suggest a relationship between Ash and some unknown woman and, Roland understands instantly, would be of intense interest to Ash scholars everywhere. So, quite unable to help himself, he spirits them away, back to the basement flat, redolent of the landlady's cats, that he shares with the long-suffering Val. Roland is led into contact with Dr. Maud Bailey of Lincoln, specialist in women's studies, in whose possession are many of the original writings of her collateral ancestress, Cristabel LaMotte, a contemporary of Ash's -- and perhaps a good deal more. After a bit of Freudian negotiation, they go to visit Sir George Bailey, an estranged relation of Maud's and current resident of the house where Cristabel died, and there they make a second exciting literary discovery. And at that point the plot begins shifting into higher semiotic gear. What exactly was the relationship between Ash and LaMotte? What happened during the period in 1859 which coincides with a long-noticed gap in Ash's biography, and which goes unmentioned in Mrs. Ellen Ash's journal? What were the true circumstances of and motives for the suicide of Blanche Glover, who had shared Cristabel's home? There are a number of mysteries here, but the story isn't as bald as all that. Nor is the narrative ever dry. Byatt shares the Victorian habit of piling layers upon layers, providing the reader with multi-page selections of poetry and tales by both Ash and LaMotte, each in its own distinctive voice. She gives us a Breton cousin's writing journal which quotes LaMotte, who tells stories, which themselves retell local myth, which someone else ruminates on, and deeper and deeper we go. And, yes, this compulsively readable book requires that you pay attention, but that isn't a burden because you will become as anxious to know the details of the lives of Ash and LaMotte as Roland and Maud -- who, of course, become equally possessed of each other as they pursue their investigations, in London and Lincoln and Yorkshire and Brittany. And that's not even to mention Dr. Mortimer Cropper of New Mexico, possessed of a large checkbook and convinced that every item R.H. Ash every touched should be acquired by the academic archive he administers. Or Dr. Beatrice Nest, who has spent the many decades of her professional life attempting to edit Ellen Ash's papers and journals, and who may even finish them one day. Or Prof. Blackadder, Roland's employer and the leading explicator of Ash's work, who has his own hidden facets (hidden even from himself). Or the larger than life Dr. Leonora Stern of Tallahassee, semi-lesbian feminist and rival of Cropper's, and a much nicer and more supportive person than one might at first think. Byatt weaves time-traveling nets of metaphor-filled language as she gleefully parodies the world of post-modern literary deconstruction (of which she herself is a noted practitioner) and builds the professional and personal parallels between Ash/LaMotte and Roland/Maud. And perhaps even Blackadder/Stern. And minor comments early in the story will become major clues later on. But then, "literary critics are natural detectives." And the title of the book will be constantly in your mind as you read.

There are books I read and enjoy but never find it necessary to open again, and there books (a very few, relatively) which I come back to every five or ten years to rediscover what the author has to say and to enjoy the sheer beauty of the way she says it. The author's literary own scholarship is as impressive as the shifts in her style. This is my third journey through _Possession_ and it undoubtedly will not be my last.

3-0 out of 5 stars liked it, wanted to love it...
It seems odd that I have less to say about this book than I generally do about my readings.I'll confess to skipping much of the poetry...I did read the letters and journals etc (and they are fundamental to the plot) but I've never been able to become much of a poetry gal (though I've tried).The story is readable and understandable w/o the poems...though I'm sure they add an element that I missed...but I'm pretty okay with that.

This is a truly literary novel.I've read several literary mysteries and this one is the most focused on the written word and the romance plot is less subjugated to the mystery than in other novels I've encountered.It is a journey, for both the modern days literary analysts and for the subjects of their intense study.

I did enjoy the story and some of the thoughts on the nature of language.I did LIKE the book.But I wanted to like it more...felt like I "should" like it more.It held my attention, but I was ready for it to end...to me, that keeps it from being a top-notch tale since with those I find myself slowing my progress to "stay" with the characters and tale.

5-0 out of 5 stars A romantic fiction book for book lovers of all stripes
This book is a tour-de-force that weaves historical insights in to a romance, while containing some poetry that could stand along in a separate book.This poetry is not included as chapter introduction fodder, but is written by the characters themselves and thus provides insights in to the characters with the elegance and expansiveness of poetry.This unique literary device is a small example of the techniques with which the author expands the storytelling power of prose.I read this book based upon a tangential quote from the author referenced in the book, The Blank Slate by the author Stephen Pinker.The quote intrigued me enough to pick up this book although romantic fiction and to be honest poetry isn't usually up my alley.I tend to be a more left-brained type.But this book is a treat for book-lovers of all types.A beautifully written and tragic narrative that reveals the author to be a person of many interest and talents and a capability to write about them all.An absolutely excellent book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Dense and delicate
I must admit that I did not initially like this book. The language is very dense and arcane, as well as somewhat foreign (to the American reader). It was more than a little frustrating to find so many unfamiliar words... but about 100 pages in, I was swept up by the spell! The richness and rhythm of the language are addictive. The poetry and letters interspersed throughout allow the reader to actively participate in the exploration (and add levity to the prose). There are so many layers to the story, as the modern characters reveal and reflect the realities of their historic counterparts. This is a dense and delicate tale, very rewarding for the patient and subtle reader.

I would add a plug for the movie, which I felt compelled to view, as a result of my enthusiasm for the book. It is good, and generally true, to the book. The historic depictions are beautiful and spot-on. Unfortunately, the modern day characters are miscast and awkward. So like Julie and Julia, it might have been a great film... ... Read more

3. Sugar and Other Stories
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 256 Pages (1992-11-10)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$4.68
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679742271
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
A collection of short stories that are populated by erudite paranoiacs, witches, changelings, and the ghost of a dead child. The author of Possession explores the fragile ties between generations and the elaborate memories we construct against loss, resulting in a book rich in knowledge, compassion, and wonder. "An outstanding collection. . . ."--The Sunday Times (London). ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Another literary collection by Byatt!
I marvel at A.S. Byatt's beautiful, literary prose. She has once again floored me with this short-story collection. Sugar and Other Stories centers on musings, philosophies and opinions about literature, culture and the human mind. Each story is enriching, enthralling and thought provoking. They remind me of her series based on the Potter family. My favorite stories are "Precipice-Encurled," "The Next Room," "The Dried Witch," and "The July Ghost." Some of the stories have magic realism in them -- something I find difficult to resist. I recommend this collection very highly. And I recommend that you read Byatt's work if you haven't done. She is an absolute genius!

4-0 out of 5 stars Reflective and intellectual collection of stories
A.S.Byatt's first collection of short stories bears all the characteristic hallmarks of her writing: fascination with literature, acute analysis of the life of the mind, and a richness of cultural allusions. The stories are sometimes demanding, and require a second read for a full understanding, but as a whole they possess an allure in their mood of somewhat melancholy introspection. The subjects are, for the most part, middle-aged women, frequently intellectual, examining the pattern of their lives and thought. The strongest story, 'Precipice-Encurled', is a brilliantly constructed tale of encircled lives that paves the way for Byatt's best-seller 'Possession'; 'The Dried Witch' and 'In the Air', meanwhile, centre respectively on an old Korean woman giving herself up to the practice of witchcraft, and a widow coping with fear of the imagination. There's a discussion of cultural clashes in 'Loss of Face', and, in the final title story, a fusion of autobiography and an explanation of the intentions of the collection.I enjoyed these stories, although I would rate the later collection, 'The Matisse Stories', higher. That said, they areatmospheric and rewarding, and a good introduction to a fascinating writer. ... Read more

4. The Biographer's Tale: A Novel
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 320 Pages (2001-12)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$5.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375725083
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
From the award-winning author of Possession comes an ingenious novel about love and literary sleuthing: a dazzling fiction woven out of one man’s search for fact.

Here isthe story of Phineas G. Nanson, a disenchanted graduate student who decides to escape the world of postmodern literary theory and immerse himself in the messiness of “real life” by writing a biography of a great biographer. In a series of adventures that are by turns intellectual and comic, scientific and sensual, Phineas tracks his subject to the deserts of Africa and the maelstrom of the Arctic.Along the way he comes to rely on two women, one of whom may be the guide he needs out of the dizzying labyrinth of his research and back into his own life. A tantalizing yarn of detection and desire, The Biographer’s Tale is a provocative look at “truth” in biography and our perennial quest for certainty.Amazon.com Review
A.S. Byatt chronicles the life of the mind with the immediacy other novelists bring to the physical world. So when the graduate-student hero of The Biographer's Tale announces that he needs "a life full of things," we take his words with a grain of salt. Yes, Phineas G. Nanson has renounced the "cross-referenced abstractions" of life as a postmodern literary theorist, and vows to ground himself in what he warily calls the "facts" (the quotation marks are definitely in order). Yet he first forays into empiricism by reading a three-volume life of the Victorian traveler, writer, and diplomat Elmer Bole--then immediately undertakes a biography of Bole's biographer, Scholes Destry-Scholes.

Things, as Nanson discovers, can prove just as slippery as ideas. His research quickly leapfrogs beyond the biographer to his other subjects: scientist Carl Linnaeus, playwright Henrik Ibsen, and eugenicist Francis Galton, all of whom Destry-Scholes chronicled in three unpublished, unfinished, and, as it turns out, well-embroidered accounts. Meanwhile, our hero continues his forays into the real world. He takes a part-time job with a pair of gay travel agents, who arrange some very specialized vacations, and meets up with a Swedish bee taxonomist named Fulla, who wants to save the world. He also unearths a perplexing series of Destry-Scholes's index cards, full of sketches, facts, quotations, and unattributed lines of verse. These he attempts to shuffle into some kind of order, even as the enigmatic figure of the biographer himself seems to appear and disappear from view.

There are echoes here of Byatt's Booker Prize-winning Possession, another detective story for the MLA set. Yet The Biographer's Tale is an altogether odder--and chillier--sort of book. It is, in fact, almost terrifyingly learned, and wears its research about as lightly as a pair of Fulla's Ecco sandals. The mystery here is nothing less than the nature of mind, so it's no criticism to say that her characters have little life outside the ideas they represent. What's surprising is that the result is so readable, even beautiful at times. Here, for instance, is Nanson on truth and beauty:

There are a very few human truths and infinite variations on them. I was about to write that there are very few truths about the world, but the truth about that is that we don't know what we are not biologically fitted to know, it may be full of all sorts of shining and tearing things, geometries, chemistries, physics we have no access to and never can have. Reading and writing extend--not infinitely, but violently, but giddily--the variations we can perceive on the truths we thus discover.
The index cards themselves can be painful to read (remember the ersatz Victorian poetry in Possession?). But persevere, dear reader--meaning emerges through the play of one esoteric piece of information against another, just as it does in real life. Byatt extends her philosophical variations as far as she giddily can, and in The Biographer's Tale, she has constructed an elaborate, glittering labyrinth at the center of which lie surprisingly simple truths. --Mary Park ... Read more

Customer Reviews (33)

4-0 out of 5 stars The beauty of arcana
This novel by the formidable A.S. Byatt initially appealed to me because it's about someone who leaves graduate school, something I was contemplating at the time I read this (and did). The main character finally gets fed up with po-mo nonsense and decides to research facts. Byatt's treatment of postmodernism continues to amuse and fascinate me; her excellent A Whistling Woman is another fine example of this. Anyhow, the now ex-grad student decides to write a biography of a biographer. He is obsessed with finding facts, actual realities that can be nailed down. My favorite detail of the novel was the well-researched information about early modern natural science- Linnaeus and folks like that. Of course, there is a bit of romance in this book too- even intellectuals get laid sometimes- but it doesn't distract from the aim of the book.
It is hard to describe Byatt's writing if you have never read her. If you are the sort of person who enjoys the New Yorker with all its well-written but often arcane information, you're bound to like Byatt. If you could care less how many species of bees there are in Norway, then perhaps Byatt is not for you! At any rate, I thought this was a fine book, though I have yet to read a Byatt I didn't like!

3-0 out of 5 stars The Biographer's Biography
After the first chapter of 'The Biographer's Tale', I thought I'd stumbled onto a highly literate, intellectual detective story, and I was ready to recommend it after a dozen pages.Unfortunately, the previously buoyant narrative sank like a stone for the next three chapters - I was tempted to lay the book aside - and never really recovered, maintaining its uneven pace throughout.Ms. Byatt's meta-fictive, scholarly novel will certainly appeal to contemplative readers who appreciate extreme subtlety combined with an almost obsessive tallying of tangentially related facts, but I found this style more fatiguing than fascinating.

Still, there are some interesting themes at work here, if one has the patience.Phineas Nanson, discouraged by his post-graduate studies in post-modern literary theory, gives up on his doctorate and instead switches to facts.Specifically the facts - the life story - of a man mostly known for the biographical work of still yet another man.Except the biographer, Scholes Destry-Scholes, is a cipher, and the only clues to his life are the biography itself and a few fragments and note cards Nanson discovers throughout the course of the novel.Meanwhile, Phineas, who from his studies is well aware of how easy it is to inadvertently insert his own story into that of Destry-Scholes, attempts and fails to keep the two separate, and the search for the biographer becomes inextricably tied together with Phineas' search for himself.

I think there's a pretty fair indictment of literary theory mixed in among Phineas' sleuthing - confronted with nothing but the fragments and published works of his quarry, Phineas reflects on critical theory as a way to 'reconstruct' what the author was really on about.Except all theory imposes the theorist onto the work - "You decided what you were looking for, and then duly found it."Ms. Byatt also creates layer after layer of parallels between all of her characters - repeated readings would undoubtedly reveal even more.I like this sort of writing when it reflects the author's craftsmanship, as in this case, instead of when it's merely clever wordplay.And lastly, the author has obviously done her research.Those who like to chase down bits of unfamiliar information inserted into the narrative for a more complete understanding, as I do, will probably have their hands full here.

If they find it intriguing, that is.Which brings me to the main problem I had with 'The Biographer's Tale' - I just didn't find it very interesting.Once Phineas makes his decision to follow Destry-Scholes, he discovers three biographical fragments written by his subject - on Carl Linnaeus, Francis Galton, and Henrik Ibsen.The author presents these fragments in their entirety - sixty-five pages worth.No doubt it was important to Ms. Byatt to do this - I'd assume it had to do with giving us clues as to the character of Destry-Scholes - but I found it tedious, tedious.Later, Phineas discovers a collection of note cards written by Scholes, and again, we get page after page of fragments as Nanson tries to group them into subjects and thereby find out what Scholes was up to.It may be that the author wanted her readers to get a close look at some literary detective work, but while that sort of thing might be interesting if I were actually involved in it, reading about it put me to sleep.

'The Biographer's Tale' won't put me off Ms. Byatt, though it may be some time before I pick her up again.In this instance, I could probably only recommend this 'Tale' to long-time fans.

3-0 out of 5 stars Ambitious but ultimately a bit disappointing
As a fan of Byatt's Possession, I very much looked forward to reading this book. I found intriguing, ambitious, but ultimately disappointing. Byatt wrote a bit of a comic novel of manners, a bit of a pastiche and critique of post-modern criticism, and a bit of an essay on the impossibility of the composition of a true and accurate biography. As a combination, or a piling up, of all these themes, The Biographer's Tale tries to accomplish too much.

Still, there are some quite hilarious scenes, and I found the sections on Linnaeus, Galton, and Ibsen to raise fascinating questions about classification, biography, and the human condition.

2-0 out of 5 stars The Biographer's Tableland
I have finally found it, an A.S. Byatt novel I do not fancy.Other reviewers here have compared this to The Yorkshire Tetralogy (The Virgin In The Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower, A Whistling Woman), which I have recently completed and regard as, taken as a whole, quite possibly the best in British fiction since WWII.I can't describe this book better than asseverating that it is everything that the books of the Tetralogy are not. It is, as Byatt admits to in the Acknowledgements, "a patchwork, echoing book" rather than a dazzling display of literary talent gleaned from hard-won personal experience.

Those interested in the plot and what this book is "about" can read the other reviews, and find that they tell you that there isn't much of a plot here and that the book is about - whatever happens to strike you in this crazy quilt "patchwork" of ideas and literary references.

As a coda, it would be disingenuous of me to say that none of them struck me.Francis Galton - do look up the lengthy entry on him in Wikipedia - is a fascinating character,cousin of Charles Darwin and one of those eccentric Victorian polymaths, hitherto unknown to me.I can see why Byatt was fascinated by him, and much of what did strike a chord with me here came from his insights, one of which, quoted here, is:

"I often feel that the tableland of sanity, on which most of us dwell, is small in area, with unfenced precipices on every side, over any one of which we may fall."

The wonder of the books of the Yorkshire Tetralogy is that they take one as a reader to the dizzying edges of those precipices, such is their power.Whereas here, one is left solidly and stolidly on the tableland, albeit with many a peculiar bauble with which to toy.

3-0 out of 5 stars The biographer's shaggy-dog tale
The premise of Byatt's novel is both clever and intriguing enough: Phineas, a graduate student chained by abstraction, declares, "I've decided I don't want to be a postmodern realist." Understandable. So one of his professors kindly (or maliciously) sends him off on a wild goose chase: researching the biography of the obscure biographer Scholes Destry-Scholes, whose only published work was a study of an equally obscure writer and whose death (or disappearance) is a mystery.

"The Biographer's Tale" is a commentary on the inherently imprecise nature of biography, but Byatt stacks the deck somewhat: not only is there not much information on Destry-Scholes, but Phineas is a notably untalented and easily distracted researcher. In fact, given Phineas's limited skills set, it's not surprising he ends up supporting himself with a "real" job as a clerk at a travel agency operated by two seemingly frivolous lovers--and even that employment proves too much for him. (I couldn't help but imagine Phineas as an up-to-date reincarnation of Ignatius J. Reilly, from "A Confederacy of Dunces.")

Early in the hunt, an archivist sends Phineas notes for three never-published biographical sketches found in the Destry-Scholes's file. Each describes a historical figure known for his generalizations (to make a generalization). Although the subjects are not named, it's immediately obvious that one sketch is about Henrik Ibsen, and Phineas quickly deduces the other two. These texts take up a quarter of the book, and many readers will agree with Phineas's assessment: "I found them both intriguing and irritating. The irritating aspect--well, the most irritating, there were others--was the air of perfunctory secrecy or deception about the whole enterprise." Actually, the most irritating aspects are that they are tedious and sloppily written, like--well, just like rough drafts. Added to the irritation is that another good chunk of the book is (I kid you not) a series of transcriptions from the index cards found in the biographer's research notes.

For a book about the study of life, this miscellany is remarkably lifeless. And I suppose that's Byatt's point: that any biographical endeavor is doomed to artificiality and interpretation. To liven things up, the results of Phineas's amateurish investigations are interspersed with his daily life, including his job, his peculiar employers (used to comic effect), a mysterious customer, and two love interests--Destry-Scholes's niece and an apiculturalist named Fulla Biefeld (one of the book's many unbearable puns).

Byatt's stab at pondering the nature of biography echoes several other works, such as "Orlando" by Virginia Woolf (whose ghost hovers over the entire book) and especially "The Quest for Corvo" by A. J. A. Symons (confusingly misidentified as Symonds, who also is mentioned elsewhere in a different context in the same section). This fixation with the nature and form of biography seems to have become a peculiarly British cottage industry; the novel also reminded me at times of the recent "Wainewright the Poisoner" by Andrew Motion.

I don't deny that there are some fascinating (and often very funny) passages in "The Biographer's Tale." Yet, unlike its literary predecessors or more recent counterparts, the novel as a whole is never as interesting as the cleverness of its parts. And its final pages, too, reinforce the idea that Byatt has diverted our literary attentions with the academic equivalent of a shaggy-dog story. ... Read more

5. Still Life
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 400 Pages (1997-04-01)
list price: US$24.99 -- used & new: US$1.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684835037
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
From the author of The New York Times bestseller Possession, comes a highly acclaimed novel which captures in brilliant detail the life of one extended English family--and illuminates the choices they must make between domesticity and ambition, life and art. Toni Morrison, author of Beloved, writes of Byatt: "When it comes to probing characters her scalpel is sure but gentle. She is a loving surgeon". ... Read more

Customer Reviews (16)

5-0 out of 5 stars Terribly good!
What may be off-putting for some is that the author is British and the book is aimed primarily at a British audience. An audience well read in their literarure, and well versed in their culture of the period, the 1950s.

Challenging but all the more interestingand rewarding for those up to the challenge.

And there are two more books in the quartet!

3-0 out of 5 stars Smart, wise, yes.A good read, no.
I respect all those who like or love this book.
The intellect and wisdom in the author are obvious.
Yet for me, it had almost a shorthand style--as if written
for the author's own circle of friends who can
automatically decipher her particular meaning in every phrase
or reference. It's very rare that I don't finish a book--
perhaps 5 times in the last 20 years. But by page 60 or so,
I realized I was never going to care much for the characters,
and was never going to enjoy the act of reading it. I'm a HUGE
Iris Murdoch fan, I've read 15 of her books. I had always
imagined Byatt and Murdoch as contemporaries--indeed they
endorse each other's books, and Murdoch raved about this one.
But for me, Murdoch offers all the human insight and philosophical
genius and engrosses me in the stories at the same time.
This writing is from an impressive mind, but I simply can't
call it a good read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Books, Sex And Death
This book, the sequel to The Virgin in The Garden is, or is an attempt to be, somewhat confusingly, about everything under the sun, particularly in the light of the sun as Van Gogh saw it, or in the light as Van Gogh described it to his brother Theo in his letters, or as the character, Alexander, who writes a play based on Van Gogh's life conceives of how Van Gogh saw it based on these letters - at least this is part of it. Let me say something here that I've never said before to the prospective reader: DO NOT BOTHER WITH THIS BOOK UNLESS YOU ARE HIGHLY STEEPED IN ALL THINGS LITERARY. - The scene I identified with most in this book was my favourite character, alas, Stephanie's crying for her book of Wordsworth's poems, while she was undergoing painful contractions and about to give birth to her first child!I've done the same thing in a dire situation in a hospital, and screamed for my books....as soon as they let me off the ventilator.- Personal anecdotes aside, you simply aren't going to be on Byatt's wavelength unless you are some sort of litterateur.There are so many allusions, intentional or not, that it doesn't seem to me that you need bothering with this book if they don't register with you. It's no use saying that you may skip the literary parts of the book, for THEY ARE the book.For instance, during what I suppose we'll call one of Byatt's "authorial interludes," for which the other reviewers have taken her to task - near the end of the book, she describes Daniel "like the seventh wave ready to break against the harbour wall."Do you know what the "seventh wave" is, prospective reader?Unless you've read a great deal of and about Tennyson, you won't.And, you'll have nobody to tell you what it signifies, except me. The seventh wave is a rewriting of Tennyson's "ninth wave" from "The Coming of Arthur" in his "Idylls of The King":

"Wave after wave each mightier than the last
`Til last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep
And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged
Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame"

I won't get into why it was changed to the seventh is most scholarly editions.It's enough for this review to know that it was.Anyway, this is just one example (the last I noted in the book) among many of the in-depth literary allusions here.Well, I suppose if the two quotes from Proust, en Francais, and the Latin quote from The Venerable Bede, serving as introductions here, don't discourage you, this allusion won't either.

But for all this intellectuality, Byatt is to be commended for her unflinching portrayal of the mundanities of family life. A particularly lengthy passage which gives an intensely detailed, almost pointillist, description of diaper-changing comes to mind.And, for all Byatt's literary pyrotechnics (which I rather enjoyed), what she is all about here, in different ways in portraying Stephanie, Frederica, Daniel, Alexander, Rafael and all the other characters is exploring what is classically known as the mind/body problem.In other words: What does it mean to be a creature with a mind?How does one get on at all?

Almost the last words from the gentle, Wordsworthian Stephanie's lips before the "accident," as she attempts to comfort Gabriel's wife about his, hm, amorous proclivities,are, "Energy is sex, in many ways, good and bad."

If this statement makes sense to you, reader, then, despite everything, plunge into the book.This Potter family doesn't need wands to make it magical.

5-0 out of 5 stars Contains a Special Achievement
The last hundred pages of Still Life contain a crushing portrayal of human grief.If its equal exists somewhere else, I don't know if I want to read it.Nonetheless, I'm lost in admiration of the writer's achievement.

1-0 out of 5 stars Still dead
Unbearably pretentious.

In a failed attempt by the author to appear intellectual, the book is poorly written and at time incoherent. ... Read more

6. The Virgin in the Garden
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 432 Pages (1992-01-15)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$4.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679738290
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
A novel in which enlightenment and sexuality, Elizabethan drama and contemporary comedy intersect richly and unpredictably.The events in this tale revolve around an eccentric family and the staging of a play about Elizabeth I. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (15)

2-0 out of 5 stars Tough Going, Not At All Like "The Children's Book"
Having enjoyed my first A. S. Byatt book ("The Children's Book"), purchased this and its 2 sequels hoping to reprise the experience.Started with the first of the trilogy, "The Virgin in the Garden" and found it extremely tough to read.The edition I got has print that seems to get ever smaller as the paragraphs got longer, and while well-written and terribly erudite (as one would expect from the author), it's a tough, tough read.It's slow, things don't really connect, and I hate to say, I finally gave up after about 100 pages.Maybe this means I am just too ignorant and too common to appreciate her writing but it was disappointing.I flipped through the 2 sequels which only seemed to get weirder so donated all three to my laundry room library.

5-0 out of 5 stars Byatt delivers on many levels.
1. It is a great novel. Well written, engaging characters, and even a plot with a beginning and a middle and an end you want to arrive at, and you do. Things to bear in mind though is that Byatt is British and writing for a British audience. Also she is a high-end literary critic extremely well-versed in British and American literature. Consequently some stuff will go over an American's head because it is a Brit thing. And some stuff is going to go over everyone's head because Byatt expects the reader to know a lot of literary and cultural references and look them up if she doesn't or just grasp the meaning from context or just slide on by. But that's what makes her books all the more challenging and interesting to those with the knowledge already or the desire to learn more .

2. Byatt is extremely meticulous and detailed when it comes to background. Can be a bit of a slog sometimes but for those with the interest and attention span it is well worth it as it brings the period in question to life, along with the charatcers and the story.

And what is really great is that this is but the first book in a quartet so there are three more great novels to look forward to after you finish reading "The Virgin in the Garden"

5-0 out of 5 stars Introducing Frederica...and the Death of a New Elizabethan Age
If the test of a great novel is that you want to read it again, or pick up the next one (this is the first of a quartet) then this is a good novel. If Still Life--the next title in the quartet--had been right here on the shelf I'd have started it right after I reread the Prologue.

The present time of the novel is 1953, the year of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and, in the world of the novel, of a verse drama about the first Queen Elizabeth enacted on the grounds of an old and elegant estate in Yorkshire. The story is that of a Yorkshire family: father Bill Potter who's reputed to be a magnetic teacher at Blesford Ride, a public school, but we see him primarily as a dogmatic liberal who terrorizes his family while promoting his ideas on education (he's for it) and religion (he's against it). Winifred, his wife, caters and defers, of necessity becoming exactly the kind of woman he deplores and whose life her daughters (Stephanie and Frederica) seek to escape. Marcus, the youngest and his mother's favorite, is inner-directed, even spiritual, awkward with just about everyone, observant of phenomena of his world--and becomes prey for a disturbed science teacher.

The novel, which in general is slow moving and highly allusive has a surprisingly dramatic closing sequence for a writer who says she didn't think she could tell stories. I had to laugh, though, at the very end: the scene is between Daniel, the fat, unkempt priest who marries the elder Potter daughter against the wishes of her parents, and Frederica in the small flat where the pregnant Stephanie is comforting the very disturbed Marcus.

Here's the last paragraph: "Waiting and patience, of this inactive kind, did not come easily to him. Or to Frederica, he decided, without much sympathy for her. He gave her a cup of tea and the two of them sat together in uncommunicative silence, considering the still and passive pair on the sofa. That was not the end, but since it went on for a considerable time, is as good a place to stop as any."

I loved that ending and asked myself why:

1. It caused me to consider the title of the second book in the quartet, Still Life. Stephanie and Marcus were "still" in their way but that was not true of Frederica and Daniel about whom "stillness" is almost the last word that would occur in any description of their characters.

2. It sent me immediately back to reread the prologue where I rediscovered that Daniel was one of the guests at the celebration in the Portrait Gallery in 1968---long after the New Elizabethan Age furor is over. Alexander Wedderburn, who wrote the 1953 verse play as a budding writer teaching at Blesford Ride, is also there, signaling perhaps that these two, and Frederica who invited them are of most interest in the novel.

3. The implication that there's more to the history of these characters made me want to continue immediately with the next book. And that reminds me that I absolutely loved the way Byatt handled time in the novel, the constant references to what different characters would do or think in the future, often with a date attached, usually in the 1970s. So you know the story goes on beyond the 1968 prologue. That's not an end to the story. AND that Byatt must have had the sequence fairly well planned out.

4. It reminded me that I liked the third person omniscient narrator which since Henry James has been used less frequently in serious fiction. I think Byatt uses it brilliantly and this ending paragraph is an example. SHE knows what happens to them all and will tell you if you're patient. The ostensible third person narrative showcases the author's extraordinary insight into so many different characters. Before the novel is over, we know all the Potters well, and even have some insights into the extraordinarily bad father. And 4 or 5 additional characters as well.

There is a narrator, though, in this novel and one who gradually makes us realize that Frederica is the main character. Some readers see Frederica as the narrator, and that is possible if one assumes a Frederica observing at some point in the future and if one assumes, as I do, that Frederica is capable of considerable detachment. But I prefer to think it's Byatt's re-incarnation of the 19th century 3rd person omniscient narrator who, as the novel goes on, focuses on the awkward, studious 17-year old ready to catapult herself into "real life". In addition, it's this narrator--definitely female--who provides the considerable humor in the novel.

My argument that the narrative is essentially (if not strictly) third person centers around the intimate (and convincing) inside view of so many different characters. What makes this a strong novel it seems to me is that Frederica is NOT Byatt thinly disguised, even though the family does seem quite similar (but then it also seems similar to the Bröntes, a point of view some in the novel espouse). In the "real" family she was the eldest and she even says that killing off Stephanie (which happens in another novel) seems, in retrospect, killing off herself. But she also says that she was shy and uncommunicative as a child, with interests in science--and that Marcus is in many ways a portrait of herself.

5-0 out of 5 stars Books And Sex
Imagine yourself as an extremely gifted, intellectual girl of seventeen from an extremely intellectual family with an equally precocious sister coming of age in England during the time of Elizabeth II's coronation just past the age of Austerity (As opposed to America's Post-War Economic boom, England went through a period of scarcity so severe that there was food-rationing, more severe than during the actual war.), and you will have a good idea of the milieu in which A.S. Byatt and her sister, Margaret Drabble (as well-known a writer as her sister, in England) grew up.You will also be able to put yourself in either the character Frederica's or in her sister, Stephanie's, shoes.The one you fancy most will depend on your taste, I suppose.All the other reviewers seem to favour Frederica, and, in fairness, the book does become, especially towards the end, her story.Still, I prefer Stephanie's quiet, Wordsworthian depth and empathy to Frederica's stylised Racine-like hardness (A bit of a Manichean simplification here, but I think it will do for the prospective reader.I'm not writing a dissertation.)In any event the choice, I think, is a personal one.

I notice that there is much comparing of Byatt to Jane Austen here.I should be especially wary of this comparison if I were a prospective reader, for a couple of reasons: 1) There is much explicit sex here, so much that, had this book been up for publication in the year it was set, it would have been unanimously turned down because of the Obscenity Laws.D.H. Lawrence (mentioned often herein) is the apt comparison 2.) I just don't see it, aside from Byatt's obsession with detail, but this detail extends to the sexual realm as well.Austen fans beware: Sexual acts are more frequent than tea parties here, and are as intricately described as the former are in Austen.

So what we have here are two very different takes on literate and literary girls coming of age in the heady dawn of a new Elizabethan era.Stephanie dominates the first half and Frederica the second half of the book, approximately.Also, there's the matter of their younger brother Marcus and his relationship with Master Cummings.I don't want to say too much about this because it's rather obscure and involved, and it also reminds me of nothing so much as an Iris Murdoch novel, except (thankfully) Byatt treats it with irony and many of these passages are terribly humourous.In Murdoch, it all would be tragic.

My own feeling?The book affected me deeply.I feel like I know people of my parents' age on a deeper level, particularly women.It blurs the lines between dreams and life, literature and life so effectively that they become part of one dizzying phenomenon, with the unremitting stress on the sexual subtext of all our thoughts and actions ringing truer than true.The narrator, who pops in a few times to give the reader a Proustian perspective on things, puts is thusly, in re Frederica:

"....whilst Alexander was never able to see this high moment of his career as any kind of archetypal golden age, Frederica was easily able to do so.Again this may have been purely a function of age.At seventeen the world was all before her, unspotted, whatever it might become, whatever it was already doomed to be.Disembarrassed, in the sixties, of the awkwardness of being seventeen, a virgin, and snubbed, she was able to fill her memory theatre with a brightly solid scene which she polished and gilded as it receded, burnishing the image of Marina Yeo's genius, after Marina Yeo's slow and painful death from throat cancer, seeing the Bevy, as they developed into housewives, gym mistresses, social workers, boutique assistants, an alcoholic and another dead actress, as having been indeed golden girls, with a golden bloom still on them, seeing the lawns, the avenues, the lanterns in the branches and the light winking on half-obscured singing bottles, in the still eternal light through which we see the infinite unchanging vistas we make, from the height of one year old, out of suburban gardens or municipal parks in summer, endless grassy horizons and alleys which we always hope to revisit, rediscover, inhabit in real life, whatever that is."

True and profound -yet there is a sadness to all this.Everyone seems somehow less substantial as one turns the final pages, and I couldn't help reverting to a thought of the daughters' mother in the early going: "...two people are closer before they have lived together or even slept together or talked for very long."This observation proves to be poignantly true both in the case of Stephanie's husband and of Frederica's lover.

As Yeats says: "All who love are sad."

1-0 out of 5 stars I have no idea what "Virgin" is all about,
except to sell books.I cannot identify with any of the characters.Incredibly outlandish (another reviewer said "unpredictable" -- a real understatement).I picked the book up a discount retailer after thumbing through it.Set in Yorkshire, England, 1952/1953, it provided me memories of Robin's Hood Bay (the hike); the names of all the plants (interestingly, gorse was never mentioned -- did I miss that one?); and the petit point hassocks for the pews at St Bartholomew's.Hmmmm.

At the time Virginia Woolf's "Mrs Dalloway" was published, a critic said it would not be read in 50 years.I can't imagine "The Virgin in the Garden" being read 50 years from now, but with sequels, etc., it appears the author is hoping for lucrative movie deals, ala Harry Potter. ... Read more

7. A.S. Byatt: The Essential Guide
by Margaret Reynolds, Jonathan Noakes
Paperback: 204 Pages (2004-02-01)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$2.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0099452219
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
This guide to the themes, genre and narrative technique of A.S. Byatt texts, Possession, Angels and Insects, Babel Tower. Provides a rich source of ideas for intelligent and inventive ways of approaching the novels. ... Read more

8. Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 240 Pages (2000-07-11)
list price: US$12.00 -- used & new: US$3.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375705759
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
From the booker Prize-winning author of Possession comes this richly imaginitive story collection that transports the reader to a world where opposites--passion and loneliness, betrayal and loyalty, fire and ice--clash and converge.

A beautiful ice maiden risks her life when she falls in love with a desert prince, whose passionate touches scorch her delicate skin. A woman flees the scene of her husband's heart attack, leaving her entire past behind her. Striving to master color and line, a painter discovers the resolution to his artisitc problems when a beautiful and magical water snake appears in his pool. And a wealthy Englishwoman gradually loses her identity while wandering through a shopping mall. Elegantly crafter and suffused with boundless wisdom, these bewitching tales are a testament to a writer at the hieght of her powers.Amazon.com Review
A.S. Byatt's stories simmer with a sensuality and passion that, liketopiary trees in aformal garden, are pruned and trained intocultivated shapes while retaining the wildscent of the orchard. In "Crocodile Tears" a womanwalks away from a personaltragedy, deserting those she loves to try toreconcile herself to a death for which shefeels horribly responsible. Thrown together in Nîmeswith another exiled mourner, aNorwegian full of northern folktales, she ricochetsbetween a numbed calm and areckless urge for self-destruction. Together theybegin to assemble some kind ofpersonal solace out of fragments of Europeanhistory, fiction, and myth, and so come toterms with their guilt. "A Lamia in the Cevennes" isalso set in France, where anotherisolated English exile struggles for self-knowledgeamid the shards of history andfolktale. "Cold" is itself a kind of latter-dayfairy story of ice princesses and sighingsuitors. These are stories steeped in light andcolor, full of glowing landscapes andsensuous delights. Their intricately woven skeins ofliterary allusion and keenlyobserved locations bewitch the reader. Yet thefigures in Byatt's landscapes seempowerless to derive pleasure or solace from theirsurroundings, picking their lonely waythrough the brilliance, carrying with them burdensof painful memories they cannotshake off. --Lisa Jardine, Amazon.co.uk ... Read more

Customer Reviews (26)

4-0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully fiery and icy tales!
The byline of this book is Stories of Fire and Ice, so all of the stories contained these two elements in one way or another. Several of them read very much like fairy tales in their representations of one or the other of the elements and made for very pleasant and lyrical reading. "A Lamia in the Cevennes" was very artistic, fantastical and eerie while "Jael" managed to appear non-fantastical until the very end which gave you shivers.

My favorite in the collection would have to be "Cold" though. The story of the ice princess and the desert prince was very touching and extremely well written, the prose in this story alone made reading the book very much worth it. I even read that particular piece aloud to my husband who also enjoyed it very much.

If you are a fan of A.S. Byatt then you will love this book, if you are just a fan of re-written fairy tales you will also love this book and should become a fan of this amazing author. The only reason it lost a star is the first story, "Crocodile Tears" - while powerful, poetic and meaningful in its own way - was a story I found hard to get into and was a very long short story to start the book off on. I guess that particular piece just hit a little too close to home for me.

2-0 out of 5 stars Great Writer Perhaps Merits More Tasting
Having never tasted of the nectar of Byatt's writing, I decided to test the waters with this small book containing shorter works.After an initial thrill of her writing in the opening story, "Crocidile Tears," wowed me with her style and writing, althought disappointed by the climax and resolution of the story, I turned anxiously to the other offerings and was disappointed.The writing was still exquisite, but the story's lacked plot and resolve.I have not given up on Byatt, as she is highly rated and may be an acquired taste.I just haven't acquired it yet!

5-0 out of 5 stars A.S. Byatt at her best
My favorite collection of short stories by Byatt. I keep wandering back to it and flipping through the pages, and then I end up reading the whole thing over again. "Cold" is fantastic. I've tried to explain it to people, and the plot sounds so cheesy, but you have to read it to understand its beauty. "A Lamia in the Cevennes" and "Crocodile Tears" were also favorites. One thing I love about her stories is that they can be so real, and have that one element that is just the opposite. A lot of great stories in here, with gorgeous descriptions.

4-0 out of 5 stars Sparking collection
As the other reviewers stated, this book is nothing at all like her other(magnificent) book Possession, either in style or subject, but Byatt's intensely clear and lyrical voice still comes through in this glowing collection of stories. I didn't like them all-"Crocodile Tears", the first and longest, is especially difficult to wade through-but of those I did like, mostly "Cold" and "A Lamia in the Ceveness", provide all the depth and warm, rich complexity that I've come to expect of her, and gave me the feeling of sinking deep into a world of water and light, as she deals with isolation, the battle between art, talent, and reality, and the contradictory nature of love, weaving a fairy-tale like spell.Not perfect, with the variation in the stories, but not to be missed.

4-0 out of 5 stars Element of Nature and Human Nature
I have read Posession and think it is too long a story though I like it. So when I search for other book by the same author, I found this little one and found it interesting with one of the synopsis about ice princess. Well, the story itself didn't let me down. Great way to fill some in-between time of dayrest. There are 6 stories in it:

Crocodile Tears
This first story tells about the outbreak reaction of a long expetation-order-surpressed life. I thought it was a thriller story, but it was about human nature. The lines are beautiful but sometimes confusing which made me feel that I have missed some point. Perhaps it need a rereading.

A Lamia In The Cevennes
The obsession of a painter with his surrounding. It is a metaphora that represents how a painter is a dreamer. A painter sees nature layered with dreams, mix of different colors, not for the scientific, dead object nature.

This is my most favorite story. A fairytale for adult :) It is about compromises that must be made between 2 different souls, falling and joined in love. An ice princess with a desert prince - Ice and Fire (I think this is the story with explicit theme of the book).

It expresses the fear any loner in a strange land. Fear of being robbed, lost the way and finally, lost identity. Cold and hot at the same time.

This is surely a tale of dark human nature. I have never guessed it but by the end of this short tale, I felt my hair stand on its end.

Christ In The House Of Martha And Mary
A parable sourcing from St. Luke's Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary. How you should not worry and settled in life, but you must contemplate and take the good part. It is about knowing and developing what you've got, not just do and sulk. ... Read more

9. Little Black Book of Stories
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 256 Pages (2005-02-08)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$6.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400075602
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Like Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, Isak Dinesen and Angela Carter, A. S. Byatt knows that fairy tales are for grownups. And in this ravishing collection she breathes new life into the form.

Little Black Book of Stories offers shivers along with magical thrills. Leaves rustle underfoot in a dark wood: two middle-aged women, childhood friends reunited by chance, venture into a dark forest where once, many years before, they saw–or thought they saw–something unspeakable. Another woman, recently bereaved, finds herself slowly but surely turning into stone. A coolly rational ob-gyn has his world pushed off-axis by a waiflike art student with her own ideas about the uses of the body. Spellbinding, witty, lovely, terrifying, the Little Black Book of Stories is Byatt at the height of her craft. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (18)

3-0 out of 5 stars Not up to par for A. S. Byatt
Most of A. S. Byatt's works belong in my category of "Favorites" but this one lacks the depth of her usual writings - perhaps it is because of the genre to which this one belongs. Little Black Book of Stories is a text for a class in my Masters in English studies.

4-0 out of 5 stars This book is not for the faint of heart.
I wasn't, going in, expecting fairy glens and unicorns or anything like that. But, I still wasn't quite prepared for the direction these fairy tales written for adults took. They were modern, entirely, in the first place. And, secondly, they were centered around World War II and its aftermath in the UK.

Each tale brought home to me a different aspect of humanity, whether it was our different ways of dealing with problems, difficulties and unknowns in our lives... perhaps even our ways of dealing with our fears. Something I suppose most fairy tales are about. Though, in this case, they were not necessarily about our valor and courage, but perhaps our methods of coping and surviving and, something most fairy tales aren't about, the aftermath, our attempts to move on.

The other thing I enjoyed was the author's ability to take ordinary situations and make them extraordinary, gradually. What starts as two refugee girls exploring a woods, ends with one facing a monster, and the other sharing the tale as a story teller. What begins as a woman facing the death of her mother ends with the woman becoming a statue of stone and myth, no longer concerned with the every day worries that she had before.

This book is not for the faint of heart. It is very much a Thinking Book. There were so many meanings and so much symbolism in each and every story. I loved it.

3-0 out of 5 stars Enchanting and Exhausting
The tone of this collection is best summed up when a character in the last story, `The Pink Ribbon', reflected on another episode involving his wife's dementia: "This then, was a tale of strangeness he could just about tell to a friend in a pub.It had an aesthetic horror to it that was pleasing".

From the literal and physical in `The Thing in the Forest' and `A Stone Woman'; to the metaphysical in `The Pink Ribbon'; and possibly psychical in `Body Art' and `Raw Material', the stories all deal with characters wrestling with monsters of some kind, while preserving that "aesthetic horror".

As a first-time reader of Byatt, I felt torn between admiration and frustration when confronted with her descriptive prose, which while arguably rich and metaphorical, also came across as opaque and ponderous, especially in large sections of `A Stone Woman' and `Raw Material'.In the former story especially, the reader is given quite a vivid picture of the strange metamorphosis of a woman into stone, but at the same time, one does get lost in the laborious detailing of stone types and textures, as seen in this extract:

"There were whole ranges of rocks and stones which, like pearls, were formed from things which had once been living.Not only coal and fossils, petrified woods and biohermal limestones - oolitic and pisolitic limestones, formed round dead shells - but chalk itself which was mainly made up of micro-organisms, or cherts and flints, massive bedded forms made up of the skeletons of Radiolaria and diatoms.These were themselves once living stones - living marine organisms that spun and twirled around skeletons made of opal."

This goes on for another paragraph. But minus these passages, the stories are still worth a read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Stories about stories
Although billed as "fairy tales for grown-ups" like the author's earlier collection, THE DJINN IN THE NIGHTINGALE'S EYE, fantasy plays a major part in only one of the five longish stories in this book, and two are entirely realistic. But they are connected nonetheless by a strong sense of the fabulous, for all five are about the making of stories themselves, or the ways in which art is hewn out of life.

Sometimes literally so. The central story, "A Stone Woman," features a middle-aged woman who feels herself turning slowly into stone, and her friendship with an Icelandic sculptor engaged in the reverse process, of finding the life hidden in rocks and boulders. The woman's observation of her own transformation shows Byatt's writing at its most iridescent: "She saw dikes of dolerites, in graduated sills, now invading her inner arms. But it took weeks of patient watching before, by dint of glancing in rapid saccades, she surprised a bubble of rosy barite crystals, breaking through a vein of fluorspar, and opening into the form known as desert rose, bunched with the ore flowers of blue john."

Compare the simplicity with which the book opens: "There were once two little girls who saw, or believed they saw, a thing in a forest. The two little girls were evacuees, who had been sent away from the city by train, with a large number of other children. They all had their names attached to their coats with safety-pins, and they carried little bags or satchels, and the regulation gas-mask." As the simple details pile up, Byatt takes us back, not just into childhood, but the specific childhood of Londoners of our generation at the start of the Blitz. Rather at C. S. Lewis does at the start of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, she creates a context of dislocated reality, in which fabulous things can happen. Lewis's children grew up and had to leave Narnia behind, but Byatt's two schoolgirls are affected for the rest of their lives, though in different ways. One seeks refuge in objectivity and becomes a scientist, the other becomes a storyteller, but both feel a strong need to revisit this first magic at least once in later life.

In "Raw Material," a teacher of creative writing praises the work of an older student of extraordinary talent, but is ignorant of the real-life circumstances that give rise to it. In "The Pink Ribbon," the husband of a woman suffering from senile dementia (itself a form of story-making), receives a surprise visitor who persuades him to rewrite the narrative of his marriage from another perspective -- a situation not unlike the ending of Ian McEwan's ATONEMENT. And in "Body Art," a male gynecologist strikes up a friendship with a homeless art student who is creating Christmas decorations for his hospital. But what begins as an artistic debate gradually begins to invade real life, eventually taking a physical form that leaves both of them changed.

These are five varied stories that will amuse, challenge, move, and chill their readers by turns, leaving them above all with a sense of wonder at the mysterious human power of telling stories -- especially when the voice is that of such a master as A. S. Byatt.

1-0 out of 5 stars NEVER RECEIVED ITEM

10. A.S. Byatt's Possession: A Reader's Guide (Continuum Contemporaries)
by Catherine Burgass
Paperback: 96 Pages (2002-01)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$10.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0826452485
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
This is part of a new series of guides to contemporary novels. The aim of the series is to give readers accessible and informative introductions to some of the most popular, most acclaimed and most influential novels of recent years – from ‘The Remains of the Day’ to ‘White Teeth’. A team of contemporary fiction scholars from both sides of the Atlantic has been assembled to provide a thorough and readable analysis of each of the novels in question. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Following a Friend's Recommendation
A friend told me about this companion book to A.S.Byatt's novel: POSSESSION. I bought both the novel and the reader companion as gifts for a friend. My friend has written to say how much she is appreciating both items...both purchased at Amazon. Thanks.

5-0 out of 5 stars Finding Ways To Balance Good Desires So They Can Co-exist
I give this book 5 stars because it did what I hoped a book like this would do: It gives the reader more ideas, history, and perspectives from which to interpret A.S. Byatt's novel "Possession." This is not a Cliff Notes. It's more like if you invited a person who was way "too" smart and "too" informed to your book club discussion. Of Byatt she says, "She has worked assiduously towards encompassing what are frequently regarded as mutually exclusive states." And this is true in so many ways. Byatt takes on ideas that most people consider contradictory and challenges those assumptions capably.

There is a "signifanct part of the work (Byatt's fiction) which is semi autobiographical." "As the main title suggests, the novel is about possession, and in line with its complex form dramatizes multiple aspects of this theme, exploring the nature of possessive love and the contrary impulse to self-preservation; superficial possession - of things - and supernatural possession by ghosts, literal and metaphorical; the quest for knowledge (intellectual possession)," and "a degree of self-possession (pride)."

Catherine Burgass examines the book's form, plot choices, and language. She gives examples of the literary criticism and reviews the book has received from major media sources and different schools of thought (old and new). The book intrinsically asks how do contemporary focuses and forms interact with the considerations of the past and future? "Part of Roland and Maud's mutual attraction is, paradoxically, a shared desire for solitude."

When A.S. Byatt was asked if she was tempted to write biographies of other people, she replied, "I do not wish to spend most of my life on somebody else's life - not one other person's life. The words came to me long before the plot of the novel, Possession, and it was to do with being taken over - or alternatively, taking somebody over, depending on whether you're a sympathiser or a hunter."

Byatt's characters are beautifully complex. Ash is sensitive to past, modern, and possible future sensibilities. So "at one point in the novel, Ash considers the way to win Christabel: 'He would teach her that she was not his possession' (p.279)" or anyone else's possession for that matter. And in the end "She and Ash remain linked in their lifetimes, poignantly through this child, whom neither of them can publicly own."The "child" in the novel could be representative of many good things they shared, their literal child, their chemistry of ongoing communication, or the things their relationship created in the real world.The novel explores how and why both characters choose to hide or silence parts of their relationship.

Love that creates consistent beauty and quality is rare.Some people think it comes only once.Some believe they can experience it in several ways, at the same or different times.Some find it in art and work as much as they find it in other people.Regardless, it is rare for most people. And the novel and the Reader's Guide explore how seemingly contradictory loves may co-exist by reconsidering perceptions, definitions, and forms.

I wrote a review of the movie before I read Ms. Burgass' Reader's Guide. My review is on Amazon if you'd like additional perspectives. If you like the movie Possession or the novel, and you'd like to consider it further, I highly recommend this book. Ms. Burgass really cared about the intelligence, complexity, and work that went into creating the novel. And her Reader's Guide may open doors to considering the story in new and valuable ways.

5-0 out of 5 stars A. S. Byatt's POSSESSION:A Reader's Guide
This is part of the "Continuum Contemporaries" series.It is a very useful resource for teaching/learning about A. S. Byatt's novel, POSSESSION, as well as about the author and the themes/issues in the novel.My only critique is that I wish it had a compendium that listed all of the different literary allusions in the book.Even without that, though, it is a helpful resource.

4-0 out of 5 stars valuable guide
Especially if you are in a book group that will be discussing "Possession", this is a thoughtful, comprehensive guide to that convoluted novel.It will ease the rather daunting task of taking in the nuances of A.M. Byatt's literary romance. Also included is a brief biography of Byatt.Recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars Covers All Aspects Including the Film
Reading A.S.Byatt's "Possession" can be a daunting task as the novel is not only interpersed with poetry and letters written by all the fictional historical characters, but is filled with allusions that only a lifetime afficiando of literature would understand.This little book by Ms Burgass will help the less erudite reader peel back the layers that comprise the entire work.
The guide is broken down into various sections that will answer questions regarding all manner of topics related to the novel.The author, the novel itself, the novel's reception, the novel's standing today, and a helpful list of study questions,further reading and websites round out the chapter topics.
I found the chapter on the novel sufficiently comprehensive to answer all my questions regarding the fictional works of Ash and LaMotte.Coverage of the novel's various themes was also extremely instructional.
I recommend this to all who enjoyed the movie and want to fully enjoy the book's entire experience. ... Read more

11. Babel Tower
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 640 Pages (1997-06-24)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$3.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679736808
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
At the heart of Babel Tower are two law cases, twin strands of the Establishment's web, that shape the story: a painful divorce and custody suit and the prosecution of an "obscene" book. Frederica, the independent young heroine, is involved in both. She startled her intellectual circle of friends by marrying a young country squire, whose violent streak has now been turned against her. Fleeing to London with their young son, she gets a teaching job in an art school, where she is thrown into the thick of the new decade. Poets and painters are denying the value of the past, fostering dreams of rebellion, which focus around a strange, charismatic figure -- the near-naked, unkempt and smelly Jude Mason, with his flowing gray hair, a hippie before his time.

We feel the growing unease, the undertones of sex and cruelty. The tension erupts over his novel Babbletower, set in a past revolutionary era, where a band of people retire to a castle to found an ideal community. In this book, as in the courtrooms, as in the art school's haphazard classes and on the committee set up to study "the teaching of language," people function increasingly in groups. Many are obsessed with protecting the young, but the fashionable notion of children as innocent and free slowly comes to seem wishful, and perilous.

Babel Tower is the third, following The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life, of a planned quartet of novels set in different mid-century time frames. The personal and legal crises of Frederica mirror those of the age. This is the decade of the Beatles, the Death of God, the birth of computer languages. In Byatt's vision, the presiding genius of the 1960s seems to be a blend of the Marquis de Sade and The Hobbit. The resulting confusion, charted with a brilliant imaginative sympathy, is as comic as it is threatening and bizarre.Amazon.com Review
Babel Tower follows The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life in tracing FredericaPotter, a lover of books who reflects the author's life and times.It centers around two lawsuits: in one, Frederica -- a young intellectual who has married outside her social set -- is challenging her wealthyand violent husband for custody of their child; in the other,an unkempt but charismatic rebel is charged with having writtenan obscene book, a novel-within-a-novel about a small band of revolutionarieswho attempt to set up an ideal community.And in the background, rebellion gains a major toehold in the London of the Sixties, and society will never be the same. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (32)

1-0 out of 5 stars Boring and hard to follow
I have never read a book by Byatt but I found this book boring.The characters weren't great and I found myself not wanting to follow the story because of the droning paragraphs.I read constantly and hardly ever don't finish a book, but after 5 chapters I just couldn't force myself to read on.

3-0 out of 5 stars Satisfying reading with rich details yet somewhat elusive
Byatt does a good job in lifting a mundane, sordid, humiliating and ugly and yet somewhat ordinary divorce story into a page turner by attempting to elevate the episode into an epic proportion by relying on simultanous narrative of Babeltower, an obscenity book case.

5-0 out of 5 stars Rich And Strange
This is a long and difficult book for a reviewer to tangle with, and I can only do so by breaking it into parts.But, ere I do so, let me make one urgent and important comment for the prospective reader on this, the third book in Byatt's "Yorkshire Tetralogy": THE BOOK IS VERY DISTURBING.Those reviewers here who dismiss it as boring or what not are only exposing their own obtusity, in all sorts of ways. They are in fact demonstrating as true the T.S. Eliot quote from "Burnt Norton" here (p.482) that "human kind cannot bear very much reality." - I, personally, would not trust someone who is not disturbed by this book - Because, as I'll come around to shortly, anyone who is not at first horrified then titillated then horrified at their own titillation in the spectacle of Lady Roseace's deathin the book within the book here is simply not a sensitive or aware human being, aware of the cruelty latent in his/her sexuality, whether s/he likes it or not.----And we don't like it, generally. So on to Part

1.) The book "Babbletower" within "Babel Tower." - This layering is what makes the book as a whole so thematically powerful.Yes, the character, Jude Mason's, book is in part a rehash of how utopias become dystopias and part a commentary on the Sixties.But, primarily, as in the two previous novels in the tetralogy, it's about human nature, particularly human nature as manifested in sexuality, a theme Byatt doggedly pursues throughout her works.And for Byatt, and for most of us when we consider it, the religious impulse is inextricably intertwined with the sexual.This observation is nothing new.All one has to do is read about the religious rites as practiced by the Ancient Greeks, for example. But it's somehow different when one thinks of one's own religious or spiritual impulses in the modern world.As a church official puts it here: "The Church has ALWAYS been about sex, dear, that's what the problem is.Religion has always been about sex.Mostly about denying sex and rooting it out, and people who are trained to deny something and root it out become obsessed with it, it becomes unnaturally monstrous..." (p.25)Thus, Culvert's discovery of the paintings of the suffering Christ in the tower marks the dawn of his awareness that there is a pleasure, a sexual pleasure, in cruelty.And this discovery leads, ultimately, to the monstrous way in which Lady Roseace is tortured and killed.At first I didn't make too much of this scene, too over the top I thought, but it's difficult to get the imagery and disgust out of one's mind, where it dwells, and eventually one eventually finds oneself responding to it in a sexual manner,because really, of course, as Culvert intended, Roseace's execution is more about sex than death.The moment one undergoes a sexual response in oneself to this horrid imagery and comes to an awareness that part of one takes pleasure in it is the moment one realises what a bewildering and disorienting book this is.Like all literature, it stirs deep things other works leave to convention and causes one to rethink basic assumptions about what one is all about in this world.On to Part

2.) Frederica - I don't like her.I like her husband even less.But that's beside the point.The problem with not liking Frederica and her distrust of emotion and her way of trying to think through everything and put everything into "laminations" is that one realises that, to a great extent, the person one truly dislikes is Byatt. But it has to be said for Byatt that she (unlike Iris Murdoch, who draws a moral lesson from her own proclivities in her books and makes them intolerable reading, to me anyway) is fully aware of Frederica's, ahem, her own, shortcomings and shrewdly points them out, which makes Frederica bearable, if not exactly likeable.

3.) The book as a whole - Is too full of parody.The scene on the moors where Federica departs her dashing husband is straight out of Wuthering Heights, rescribed for the modern reader.And then parody breaks out all over:Modern poetry, contemporary education, English divorce law proceedings (before no-fault divorces were commonplace) and on and on.The saving grace here is that Byatt parodies her own parodies, making Frederica's "laminations" as much of a shipwreck as her life is at times here, thus making them and her palatable.What the none-too-subtly named Magog says in the trial about the Babbletower is more true of Babel Tower, that, "it is a text that twists round and round itself like the snake around the tree.What IS its true message?" p.586

One might well wonder.And go on wondering, for, despite certain reservations on my part, this is a rare book indeed, one not just to think and ponder over, but to WONDER over.

4-0 out of 5 stars Worth wading for
The first (and still, in my opinion best) novel I read by Byatt was "Possession", which is a true masterpiece.Like that book, it took some patience to get into "Babel Tower", but once, one gets past the first 50+ pages, one is rewarded with an enthralling tale.After reading "Possession," I went back to read Byatt's earlier work, starting with"The Game," "The Virgin in the Garden" and "Still Life".It is fascinating to see how sibling rivalry plays out from different points of view (Byatt is the sister of Margaret Drabble, also a novelist, who I think enjoyed an excellent reputation but has been overshadowed by Byatt), especially when Frederica ends up in a sisterly relationshipas a grown-up.

4-0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking and yet mildly pretentious.
In my opinion, A.S Byatt is a master of language; as well as of the observations of both human nature and society. I was first introduced to her work with Possession, and have since then read everything I can.
Overall, Babel Tower is an amazing work of literature. As always, the prose flows together in perfect cadence; along with observations of a new revolution of traditional values versus new ideas of free thought, the change of language, and how one must suffer so greatly to be accepted by society and it's stiffling expectations.
Frederica; I continued to adore and be plagued by at the same time. However, one of my small problems with this book is that the character development did not seem to be as strong as Virgin in the Garden or Still Life. I also really missed and wanted to see more of Marcus, Jacqueline, Ruth, Daniel, and the old crowd of the previous two novels--I wanted to know more about how Daniel's children coped with their mother's death and simply more about one of my favorite literary families instead of the whole novel being almost all Frederica.
My only other small complaints are that sometimes the excerpts from Babbletower detracted from the book as well as some of Frederica's lamentations or reviews. My advice is to skim these parts--they don't really do much for the overall plot so you can get by with just a basic idea. Finally, there are parts in the novel that seem as if the prose and all the literary references are forced if not slightly pretentious, while the other two novels had a very natural flow while the intellectual ideas were not pretentious or showoffish. It seems as if Byatt was slightly stuck at these "humps", but she gets over it quickly enough.
But despite a few mild flaws, this is a very good novel. Perhaps not as polished as the others, but a gorgeously told story with brilliant social commentary and satire to top it off.
A great novel to read with any group of friends or a book club as there is so much to discuss with so many different takes. It does take awhile to get through, as is the case with all of Byatt's novels, but you will feel content with the overall bookin the end-- even with the pretentious bits and an often tearjerking storyline. ... Read more

12. Identity and Cultural Memory in the Fiction of A.S. Byatt: Knitting the Net of Culture
by Lena Steveker
Hardcover: 208 Pages (2009-12-15)
list price: US$75.00 -- used & new: US$60.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0230575331
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

This book provides innovative readings of the key texts of A.S. Byatt's oeuvre by analysing the negotiations of individual identity, cultural memory, and literature which inform Byatt's novels. Steveker explores the concepts of identity constructed in the novels, showing them to be deeply rooted in British literary history and cultural memory.
... Read more

13. Angels & Insects: Two Novellas
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 352 Pages (1994-03-29)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$4.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679751343
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
The author of Possession returns to the territory of her bestselling novel in two breathtaking fictions that explore the social and psychic landscape of Victorian England. Set in a proper country house with undercurrents of brutality and at a seance where historical figures yearn for one another, these works remind us of Byatt's powers. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (26)

4-0 out of 5 stars Morpho Eugenia Review
For my class in British Literature: Animal Antics, we read this short novella.It is a modern author who writes in a Victorian style and setting. The novella is both intriguing, and shocking as it comments on society's hierarchy and the morality that lies within. The narrator is a trustworthy voice who is caught up in a world of bugs and insects that he does not see the activities going on in the house he is in.A Victorian novel set in under 200 pages - you get all the bases without the dry, lengthy roundabout extra 200+ pages that follow Victorian tradition.

5-0 out of 5 stars First story is worth the price of admission
I agree with the general run of opinion that "Morpho Eugenia" is superior to "Conjugal Angel."But I find the former so rich, so thoughtful, that it's worth the price of admission on its own.I don't think there's a reason to deduct points because of "Conjugal Angel"; its shortcomings don't detract from the brilliance of "Morpho".

"Morpho Eugenia" gives us at least as much to think about as most full-blown novels.Byatt gives us several different voices (the naturalist, the fairy-tale, and so on), invokes the conflict between science and religion, gives us playful allusions to the parallels between humans and insects, and all on top of a wonderful story.That she does all this in the space of a novella is, if anything, a credit to the story, even if it had to be paired with another story for purposes of publication.

4-0 out of 5 stars Prisoners of ideology
Angels and Insects is an intriguing pair of novellas. At one level it examines the complexities of human relationships, especially those incorporated within marriage and the family. It identifies tension, dissipates it, anticipates expectations and then seeks resolution of conflict when they are not realised. In Morpho Eugenia, William, a suitor, pursues his beloved and she becomes his wife. They breed with regular success, but there is a darkness that separates them in their marriage, a darkness that becomes light when William comes home from the hunt unexpectedly.

In The Conjugal Angel we enter a spirit world. For the inhabitants of the world, the spirit reality is as tangible, as rational a universe as any other. It is a world with familiar landmarks that reveal themselves easily to the accepting mind. Powerfully and engagingly interpreted by an influential writer, their significance enters the participants' assumptions, their existence never questioned.

Angels and Insects is set in the mid-nineteenth century and, as such, deals with concepts, both social and intellectual, which are quite foreign, quite removed from those of the contemporary reader. In Morpho Eugenia, we have a scientist exploring the revolutionary ideas of evolution and applying these not only to the natural world he researches, but also the private human world, both physical and emotional, that he inhabits. Needless to say, his radical ideas are not shared by many close to him. In The Conjugal Angel, we encounter a group of people motivated by a reality they all share. But, for the contemporary reader, it is a reality that is utterly foreign, its literature and its analysis both apparently bogus in today's judgment.

Thus, eventually Angels and Insects is a novel about ideology. It illustrates how ideological assumptions about the nature of existence can drive an individual's and a society's approach to life, and how it can convince people of the truth of illusion, or vice versa. And in considering the works of contemporary poets, Angels and Insects illustrate how the literature of an age can become suffused with its ideology and, indeed, how this can feed back into the substance of life to reinforce assumptions.

As ever, A S Byatt's use of language is virtuosic, making the process of reading Angels and Insects a delight throughout. It is an ambitious project which almost achieves its design. The shortfall, however, becomes a frustration.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fine Use Of Mid-Victorian Setting
Two novellas, both set in Byatt's favorite period, the Victorian era. The first novella carried, in my opinion, the weaker second, but both are good reads. The first story was later shot as an NC17 movie. It is about a biologist who comes back to England after a decade in Brazil and begins to write his great work on the civilization of ants. He falls in love with the daughter of his host family and marries her. For several years all seems well, if slightly askew, somehow, to him, and at the end of the novella, we learn exactly what is wrong with life in that house and what has been wrong all along. (Slightly shocking, really, giving the unsuspecting tone to the plot that led up to it.) The second novella is about the late-Victorian mania with séances and spiritualism. In it a woman whose husband, captain of a whaling ship, is presumed drowned at sea, and she is encouraged by her sister to seek the aid of a noted medium. Both these novellas may easily be partaken of in a day, and make superb reading material for a long flight or rainy evening spent alone.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fly like an angel, sting like a bee
A.S. Byatt is best known for her lush, time-spanning historical romance "Possession." In "Angels and Insects: Two Novellas," Byatt revisits the intellectuals of the Victorian era. She dips into Victorian interests in spiritualism, insects, poetry and love -- not to mention their darker sides as well.

"Morpho Eugenia" introduces us to a young naturalist named William, who until recently had been studying insects in the Amazon. He was shipwrecked, then rescued by the wealthy Alabaster family. While continuing to study butterflies, he marries the beautiful eldest daughter Eugenia and for a time, lives the good life. The only problem is that unknown to him, Eugenia is wrapped up in a lifelong tangle of obsession and incest.

"The Conjugial Angel" introduces us to a group of mediums who gather to call up spirits. Mrs. Papagay is still in love with the dead Arturo. Emily mourns her dead lover, immortalized in her brother Alfred Tennyson's "In Memoriam" -- except she has married again. Now she struggles with her past emotions, her present doubts, and her longing to communicate with her love again.

As in her prior works, Byatt's writing is almost dizzily lush. She has a good sense of detail, describing ribbons, moths, butterfly wings, and the flames of gaslights. But pretty words are not all that Byatt has to offer -- she makes use of poetry (her own, and that of others), Darwinism and religious faith, Swedenborg, a family whose opulence covers their decay, and the nuances of love. Not to mention the dialogue: Eugenia's rambling explanation about her relationship with her brother is chilling.

Perhaps best of this collection is that Byatt has a fantastic grasp on period descriptions and dialogue -- it all sounds like a novel from the 19th centuy, with the polish of a modern book. Which is not to say that "Angels and Insects" is perfect. Byatt spends a little too much time on the moths and too little on the Alabaster family. And she's not at her best in "Conjugial Angel," which lacks the punch of the first novella. It's moving at the end, but takes awhile to get there.

Delving into such topics as survival of the fittest, poetry and love, Byatt produces a solid pair of novellas written in her usual sensuous prose. Despite some flaws that bog it down, this is a unique read. ... Read more

14. A Whistling Woman
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 448 Pages (2004-04-13)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$3.21
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679776907
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
A Whistling Woman portrays the antic, thrilling, and dangerous period of the late ‘60s as seen through the eyes of a woman whose life is forever changed by her times.

Frederica Potter, a smart, spirited 33-year-old single mother, lucks into a job hosting a groundbreaking television talk show based in London. Meanwhile, in her native Yorkshire where her lover is involved in academic research, the university is planning a prestigious conference on body and mind, and a group of students and agitators is establishing an “anti-university.” And nearby a therapeutic community is beginning to take the shape of a religious cult under the influence of its charismatic religious leader.

A Whistling Woman is a brilliant and thought-provoking meditation on psychology, science, religion, ethics, and radicalism, and their effects on ordinary lives.Amazon.com Review
Anyone who has followed the adventures of Frederica and her friends from The Virgin in the Garden through Still Life and Babel Tower will find itimpossible to resist A Whistling Woman, the conclusion of A.S. Byatt's masterful quartet on postwar English life and manners. The first book in the series was set in the early 1950s, and A Whistling Woman carries the story through the end of the 1960s.While it lives up to the sweep and gravitas of the earlier volumes, it is slow going at the start, crowded with characters and ideas, not all of which are equally compelling.University politics,feminism, television, psychology, the advent of mass culture, and theemerging science of neurobiology each figure large, although Byatt'semphasis is on the old trio of love, madness, and religion.These novelscover much of the same ground as her sister Margaret Drabble did in The Radiant Way and elsewhere, but have more in common with the work of Iris Murdoch, whose novels showed a similar sympathy for--and fascination with--unreasoned acts of passion.A Whistling Woman is a brilliant evocation of the intellectual and social life of 1960s Britain, with allowance for the occasional grisly murder.--Regina Marler ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

4-0 out of 5 stars Open Letter to A. S. Byatt
I can't begin to tell you how much yourFrederica quartet has meant to me personally.About 15 years ago I read Still Life which I thought was the saddest, most beautiful book I had ever read. I saw you in person right afterward at the Tattered Cover in Denver;I don't remember what I said to you, but it was something complimentary because after reading Possession, you were then one of my favorites.I went back and read the Virgin in the Garden and I knew I would be hooked for the whole series.Babel Tower was challenging book, but I was hungry for more details about the Potter family that I felt like I knew which you rendered with such honesty and feeling.This was a family I identified with and understood from the beginning. And now with A Whistling Woman, having finished it, I am in a complete state of grief because you appear to be finished with this family.You started with a small family living in an insular existence in the country, followed them in the next work to the enlargement of their lives as the young adults expanded their world in the university. The death of Stephanie overwhelmed me with grief--you didn't hold back.You told the truth.I sobbed so hard I couldn't even see the page. Then Frederica moved onto try to make something of her life in her world which had expanded even more to include all of Britain.Frederica married the wrong man and had to suffer the consequences. So this last of thefour really moved me. The action in a way completes the circle by focusing so much on the north in the University there where intellectual life takes all to intellectual heightsby focusing on philosophy and science..It's the late 60's and so many women are trying to find the right path for them--not just Frederica but also Ruth, Brenda, Lucy, Jacquelyn, Eva.They are the Whistling Women of your opening myth, women who are intelligent and sensitive and aspiring whom others don't especially want to listen to. Because of their newly found freedom they can do with their lives mostly what they wish if only they knew what to do, but now they are more responsible for their fates than women have ever been.

What moved me so much about these works is your total honesty.People in the books and readers don't especially like Frederica because she is sharp and self-centered, but she really is every woman who is criticized for her intelligence and who has to struggle to know herself.But I was also moved by the references in the book to the departed Stephanie and the lingering of grief and the memorabilia that harkened back to Frederica's girlhood . (How dare those ignorant students destry that beautiful house and those Elizabethan costumes!) The scene of her daughter Mary playing in Shakespeare's tale is a masterpiece of understatement.The context provided by the other 3 books make simple scenes of griefreverberate here as if theywere my own family history. Your brilliance has allowed you to create an entire world almost in real time.Thank you.

This last book was difficult but who else other than you has the vast knowledge to stimulate our thought so deeply.Oh, by the way,Luk's ideas about the unnecessary male (biologically speaking)--I kept wanting to shout out "hybrid vigor" as the answer.It's a minor point.

My last point has to do with Harry Potter. I read your essay about Harry Potter(July 7, 203) in the New York Times and I agree that adults who read him perhaps have unresolved childhood conflicts. I want to recommend to others your "Little Black Book of Stories."These hair-raising tales are totally adult and would provide much more mystery, different worlds, originality, fright,andsomething to think about than Harry Potter ever could.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not With A Bang, But A Whisper
Alas, Byatt's "Yorkshire Tetralogy" has now come to a close for me, and I find myself asking what another reviewer here asks, "Why aren't there more books like this?"Why, in short, aren't there more books frothing with the human experience in all its richness, which demand that their readers be intelligent and learned and to be able to cope with the uncertainties and sometimes terrible consequences of being a sensitive, thinking person on this planet?In the event, here, at the end, I shall review both this book, and the tetralogy as a whole.

I mentioned in my review of Babel Tower that I didn't much care for Frederica.Here, mirabile dictu, she comes to the same conclusion: "She didn't like herself." P.259 This recognition marks a watershed in the narrative.Frederica is still in the picture, but she becomes a bit more like her much-lamented sister, Stephanie, from the earlier books. Not thoroughly, of course.But, in the end, Frederica is actually likable.But she's not the main character in this mind-bending, cerebral novel.But if there is one, it is surely Joshua Ramsden.The account of his early years of growth and maturity leading eventually to his Manichaeism were the most riveting and, quite literally, spellbinding parts of the book for me.After he becomes a guru of sorts, the account thins out.But if ever a reader wanted to know what it FEELS like to hold this worldview, how one is led to it, how the world appears to one under its sway -or the sway of Gnosticism, I might add, which is almost identical - then this is the book to read.

There is so much else here that fascinates and wows one in this book: literary allusions from Donne to Proust to Tolkien, and many others in between, an actually readable account of our reliance on metaphor, the sexual habits of snails and their implications for humans---All set against a late 60's backdrop in which the events of the "Babbletower" book within "Babel Tower," in so many respects, come to pass.The book is so gripping in so many different ways that are not for the faint of heart or mind that I think it no hyperbole to say that it's for readers who wish to venture into "the mental worlds in which the lost, and the contemplative, and the brave, and the foolhardy, wander." P.406

As for the tetralogy, clearly no single idea will cover all four books.So, I'll just stay with a thought voiced by Frederica about King Lear (the play) in another of the books, one that keeps recurring to me: That Shakespeare had Cordelia killed as well as the king to show that there was no redemption.How many books does one read blurbs for that proclaim "A powerful novel of redemption" etc etc? I'm not sure I quite know what people mean by it anymore, in a literary sense.Its use has become so widespread.If there is one thing that came through to me through these works, it's the theme of NON-REDEMPTION.It's not quite as bleak as King Lear.But these books give the lie to the notion that anything in the universe will necessarily redeem us.We muddle through an interesting, terrifying universe and make do as best we can.

5-0 out of 5 stars Skill in Portraying Difficult Things
Chapter 11 juxtaposes two episodes, first a seduction and then the same woman having sex with a proper boyfriend.The treatment, while blandly descriptive, is so brutally, bitterly true that you have to ask yourself if we can afford so much truth in a civilized world.

Another tremendous achievement on Byatt's part.

3-0 out of 5 stars Complex form that ultimately complicated
A S Byatt's A Whistling Woman is a strange book. At one level it's a straightforward account of university life, with its politics, affairs and academic pursuit. But then there's the suspicion that none of this is ever satisfying for those involved. They yearn for something bigger, whilst at the same time trying to deny its significance in their lives. Another strand is the career of Federica, one of the book's principal characters. Almost by default, she finds herself host of a BBC2-style arts review or in-depth discussion. She is forced via the subject matter of her programmes to re-examine a whole host of assumptions. So while the scientists try to identify a mechanism by which memory is both stimulated and fixed by means of electrical stimulation, Federica, via her television shows, offers apparently ever more arcane subject matter, leaving us confused as to what we think we might believe - or even remember.

And these are just some of the strands of plot and characterisation in A Whistling Woman, certainly one of the more complex novels I have read in many years. I have not read the previous three works in the series. This may have been why I found a number of loose ends that seemed to have strayed and frayed from elsewhere.

And then there's the alternative university that establishes itself near to the conventional campus of the University of North Yorkshire, whose acronym, obviously, is UNY, implying generality. The alternative people adopt true nineteen sixties postures, preferring question to answer, experience to knowledge, heuristics to instruction. When we recall this hippy, flower power, professedly liberated, free thinking era, it is wise to bear in mind that this is also the generation that elected Ronald Reagan, tolerated support for death squads in central America and fuelled the consumer boom of the later eighties. But at the time, these revolutionaries sought something transcendent in their anti-university and found it in a self-destructing religious sect.

But no matter what people profess, no matter what they research, they still sleep with one another, still get pregnant, still need mutual support. The 1960s complicated all of these things with a superimposed need for personal, transcendental fulfilment and expression, whilst, at the same time, destroying perhaps permanently any possible recourse to established religion. In A Whistling Woman, A S Byatt captures this confusion and dissects it, but she offers us no neat packages of analysis, no simple results by which we might identify its elements.

5-0 out of 5 stars fabulous
This book is almost as good as her book, Possession, which I thought was one of the most brilliant books I'd ever read. ... Read more

15. The Game: A Novel
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 288 Pages (1992-11-10)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$4.02
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679742565
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
As girls, Julia and Cassandra played a game in which they entered the imaginary landscapes of Arthurian romance. Now, a man the sisters once both loved reenters their lives, drawing them into a game whose rules are far more intricate--and whose stakes are incalculably higher--than the one they played as children. "Byatt is a gifted observer, able to discern the exact details that bring whole worlds into being."--New York Times Book Review. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

1-0 out of 5 stars A Loser
This is probably the worst book I've ever read, especially disappointing because I heard so much about Possession: A Romance (Modern Library), highly praised by my friends (although pretty much everyone told me, "I skipped all the poetry."). This badly crafted tale of two sisters' rivalry for the attentions of an arrogant TV star is both irritating and dull, full of overwrought descriptive passages and clumsy attempts to "get into the mind" of the main characters. The plot eventually gets lost in all of the pseudopsychological meanderings, but in the end no one is really happy (is that a spoiler?). Byatt opens every scene by telling us what people are wearing, for no discernible reason, and much time is spent describing Quaker meetings, which are in some way supposed to be fascinating but I found pointlessly dull. I only finished the book because I was at a remote outpost in the Brazilian rainforest and had nothing else to read. I suppose I should read Possession, but I guess I'll wait till I'm back in the rainforest.

5-0 out of 5 stars GET REAL
Julia, a writer,and Cassandra, an Oxford professor, are two sisters pushing into their 40s that have been estranged for 20 years ever since a man named Simon Moffit came between them and then disappeared from their lives. One day as they are watching television they learn that Simon has now become a naturalist similar to the Crocodile Hunter who likes to get close to dangerous animals in their native habitat. Simon is also coming back to England after being away filming his documentaries and back into the two sister's lives. Julia has gotten married in the meantime and has a child that looks suspiciously like Simon while Cassandra has tried to distance herself from reality, shying from human interaction, cocooned in her office at Oxford. Simon's return will force both of the sisters to examine the loss of their childhood bond when they played an imaginary game, a la the Bronte sisters, in which they chronicled the exploits of knights and ladies to make the time go by. They will also have to figure out their feelings for Simon after spending half their life pining for what has become a man they know now only through tv images and imagination and memories.

This was A.S. Byatt's second novel, published in 1967, the summer of love and all that business. It is a masterful work. Julia runs into trouble when she writes a book about Simon and Cassandra and all the mess they went through. Both sisters begin to question whether their lives have become fiction or whether the fictions they made up as kids have become their lives. It is an interesting question for a writer's second work and one which I've seen taken up by Dostoyevsky. The Game is really about whether other people's perceptions of us is stronger than our own self-image. It illustrates what happens to those who are strong enough to shake that image and those weak enough to have their personalities shaped by those they love.

I had always known of Byatt by reputation but this is the first book I have read by her. I am very happy that she did not disappoint and look forward to reading the works of her maturity.

2-0 out of 5 stars Not Byatt's best, by a long shot
I think the Ingram reviewer above was on something when he wrote of the "danger" that grew from the sisters' game, and of the "evil man determined to control their thoughts".I didn't get any of that out of _The Game_.

_The Game_ is basically the story of two sisters:Julia, a sociable but shallow novelist who writes about the boredom of domestic life; and Cassandra, a nunlike scholar who hides away from real life in the cloistered world of high academia.The "game" referred to in the title is an imaginary Arthurian world invented by the sisters when they were children, but it has little bearing on the rest of the novel, except in that Cassandra went on to become an Arthurian scholar, and Julia uses it as an example of Cassandra's condescension.It could have been dropped from the plot without much effect, which is sad for me, since the Arthurian element is the biggest reason I wanted to read the book in the first place.

Leaving out Arthur, who is mostly irrelevant anyway, we have Julia and Cassandra, who are just repairing their estranged relationship, when Simon Moffat comes back into their life.Simon was both women's first love; Cassandra adored him from a distance, while Julia slept with him.This triangle was the reason for their estrangement.When he reappears, so do the tensions between the sisters.

_The Game_ failed to engage me; most of the characters were pretty one-dimensional and cold.Cassandra had a few moments of stunning dignity, but she didn't seem real either.A.S. Byatt has gotten much better since.

4-0 out of 5 stars An engaging read
Although it's some years since I read this excellent book, the reviews thus far in my view, do not do it justice.Many people know of Byatt's writing through her book "Possession" but although this is a fine example of her work, all her writing demonstrates a wonderful story-telling ability, embroidered throughout by her extensive literary and historic knowledge."The Game" is a very "readable" novel, drawing the reader in as the tale evolves.To over analyze "The Game" is to miss the beauty of the mystery and intrigue; to miss the interplay between the main characters and the complexities of family emotions."The Game" is a wonderful book for any mystery-loving reader and for anyone who has not already been drawn in by Byatt's writing is an excellent place to begin a reading relationship with her work.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not at all disappointed
In contrast to the other reader reviewers, I loved this book. I've not read anything else by the author except for the Matisse stories, which did not hold my attention. I am certainly looking forward to her other novels if this is, to her fans, a second-rate effort.

I find the two lead female characters richly drawn and interesting. The younger is the prototype of a writer who must publish as she wills even though she hurts those dear to her. Her self-knowledge is finally revealed to be nothing but complete self-absorption, in contrast to her pretensions. The older sister, shut off in an arid cell of her own making, is gradually learning to live and accept people again before the final climax.

The philosphical concepts and conflicts which are argued throughout are apropos to the plot and well developed. I enjoyed the book thoroughly. ... Read more

16. The Matisse Stories
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 144 Pages (1996-04-30)
list price: US$12.00 -- used & new: US$4.59
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 067976223X
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
From the Booker Prize-winning author of Possession come three intensely observed, beautifully written stories, each inspired by a painting of Henri Matisse, each revealing the intimate connection between seeing and feeling. In A.S. Byatt's hands, these tableaux come to life, exposing the unruliness of grief, desire and creativity. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

1-0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
What a disappointment! I thought I purchase the edition with color illustrations of three Matisse paintings. Instead it was a poor quality binding, cover and with pencil drawings.

Pat Nuezel

4-0 out of 5 stars As sensuous as paint?
Let's get the worst out of the way first. These three stories range from pretty good to excellent -- with Byatt, how could they not? -- but they make slim reading for a stand-alone book. All the same, two of them at least are polished works of art, all the more fascinating for exploring that no-mans-land between the visual and the literary.

The Matisse connection is both peripheral and central. Peripheral, in that the stories all spring from somebody looking at, or thinking about, a Matisse. Central, in that Byatt attempts to map out the distinction between what can be expressed only in words, what only in paint, and what can be translated between the two. Her choice of Matisse as a touchstone is appropriate; one of the most genial and sensuous of artists, his works appeal directly to the retina and bypass the mind. Or seem to; there is more to him than meets the eye. Two of the three stories make the eye/mind distinction explicit. In one, an artist is tongue-tied discussing his paintings with a gallery owner: "He cannot tell her that they are not about littleness but about the infinite terror of the brilliance of colour, of which he could almost die, he doesn't think those things in words anyway." In another, a critic is said to find "language as sensuous as paint." Both characters into trouble with their views, but Byatt herself tackles the issue head-on. Almost as though to demonstrate the inadequacy of language, you can see her trying to splash words around like paint, as in this description of a boy with chicken pox anointed with calamine lotion: "He has the same skin too, but at the moment it is a wonderfully humped and varied terrain of rosy peaks and hummocks, mostly the pink of those boring little begonias with fleshly leaves, but some raging into salmon-deeps and some extinct volcanoes with umber and ochre crusts." Repulsively inappropriate, perhaps, but quite brilliant!

In the first story, "Medusa's Ankles," the visual element is secondary to the evolving relationship between a middle-aged woman and her hairdresser, who has a Matisse reproduction hanging in his salon. In the second, "Art Work," the connection appears to be even more contrived, since it begins with Byatt's own description of the Matisse reproduced on the book's cover, which has no literal place in the story at all. But all the characters in it are artists in one way or another, and Matisse becomes the measure of the differences between them, which in turn impacts their real lives. In the third, "The Chinese Lobster," two academics meet in a restaurant to discuss the work of an angry student engaged in a feminist dissertation on Matisse involving some radical desecration of his images. What begins almost as a philosophical discussion comes to reflect directly on the inner lives of all three characters, making this the most satisfying story of the three. But all are eminently worth reading (perhaps even buying).

3-0 out of 5 stars Pretense and Plausibility
A.S. Byatt, the Booker Prize winning author of "Possession," attempts an impressionistic portrait of the tension between aesthetics and emotion, with allusions to Who-Doesn't-Like-Matisse, and literary nods to Woolf and other masters of the ouvre.It's all so very pretty and stylized, and filled with such small ideas posing as BIG THOUGHTS. Imagine, Art as life! Life as art! Both and neither as everyday things that we just-took-for-granted!

In such an important book, little considerations like plausibility and nuance of character may be dispensed with. Consider the following summaries of Byatt's three easy pieces: Uptight scholar throws tantrum and wrecks a once Rubenesque styling salon gone Post-Modern; Lower classish maid/nanny controls her apparent controllers--an uptight editor and her uptight, once promising painter spouse, and then upstages the latter in a didn't-see-that-coming showing of her sculptures made from her employers' throwaways(!), and two uptighters: He, an impossibly drawn caricature of cruel academia; she--the only believable voice here--a Dean mollify his pathological ravings (and posible gropings) of a ambiguously portrayed but clearly troubled graduate student.

Byatt doesn't let our minds wander and think and fill in the blank spaces: She pretty much covers the entire canvas with starkly drawn, shallow pictures of these tightly-wound characters. Like the small-scale achievements of her protagonists, Byatt writes very fine miniatures--bursts of adjectives as metaphor here, a keenly observed, "revealing" detail there, but the whole mess comes apart if you step back and try to make sense of it-the opposite result of Impressionist work.As others have noted, Byatt focuses more on language and feeling and all that psychology stuff, but if these are embedded within fable-like set pieces we're not about to believe the actors' suppressed and repressed emotions, let alone their facades. I'm not sure who the joke's on when Byatt basically paints a word picture of a vulva in the first story, in which she also places "cunning" followed by "linguist" in the same paragraph. Perhaps this is Dada-esque subversion or a Fauvist attempt to awaken our senses.

The stories succeed only in a gigantic suspension bridge of disbelief.Rather than Impressionism, this strikes me as miniatures of superb writing set against a large trompe de l'oeil canvas, and, for the most part, the trompe is on us.

3-0 out of 5 stars Byatt & Matisse not a perfect match
Let me begin my review by stating that I am not a big fan of the "description-for-description's sake" school of writing, with supposed "beautiful" prose standing in for an actual story. Fantastic imagery and specific details can be a great addition to a book that is already succeeding with engaging characters and a forward-moving story, but on their own I just find it to be tedious. That said, Byatt's collection of three longish short-stories has within it moments and characters I found myself drawn to, and writing that I enjoyed the rhythms and construction of, but overall this was a bit of a task for me to read.

The first offering of Matisse-inspired stories, "Medusa's Ankles," was my favorite, probably because it involved conflict that was both internal and external, with an un-sympathetic protagonist who I found compassion and understanding for by its end. The third story, "The Chinese Lobster," makes more use of dialogue than mood or overly poetic language, but it ultimately stumbles in its aims by not giving the reader a situation or characters we can care a whit about.

By the time I got to the second piece, "Art Work" (yes, I read them out of order), my patience with the book was waning and I wasn't rewarded in my decision to save the longest story (50-plus pages) for last. Essentially an art history course wrapped in fiction, with palettes and colours and lack of colour and shadows explored in numbing detail, the story was a misfire for me at the start. Long passages of scenic and location-specific descriptions confuse and disorient, rather than ground and illuminate this reader before any characters are even witnessed, much less introduced. The characters then reveal themselves to be paper-thin, appearing only to allow Ms. Byatt to work her muscles of laundry-list style description and repetitive sentence-structuring. Overall, the whole experience of reading this felt like too much work for too little reward.

3-0 out of 5 stars Sadly, Byatt Misses The Mark Here
In symphonic music, they call the aural equivalent of these stories "tone poems". I'm not sure if there is exactly the right description in literature for what Byatt aimed for here, but I think that analogy works. Byatt hoped, I believe, to cement her stories to Matisse in such a way that her words and these tales would represent in image the vivid colors and expression of Matisse's paintings. None of these three stories really gripped me or lingers well in my memory. I think it's fair to say Byatt was hoping to cast her female characters' views on life as a surrogate for how art itself might be viewed as a reflection of human experience. ... Read more

17. Possession : A Romance (Modern Library)
by A.S. Byatt
Hardcover: 640 Pages (2002-06-30)
list price: US$17.95 -- used & new: US$12.35
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B000C1ZXDG
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

Customer Reviews (8)

1-0 out of 5 stars Possesssion
A fearfully dull book in which the author cleverly, no doubt, records the history of very dull people of no interest!

5-0 out of 5 stars Movie Review
I am a huge fan of A,S, Byatt's book of the same title. I felt the movie adaptation to be excellent.

5-0 out of 5 stars It took Possession of me
This is by far my favourite novel as it incorporated lush imagery, beautiful poetry, romantic storylines, heartbreaking emotions and enough intellectual stimulation as to render it right up there with the classics of literature! I read this first in high school and it moved me deeply (which is rare with me and modern literature). You feel what the characters feel, you want what they want. Possession is just an extraordinary literary masterpiece and I recommend it fully.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not Just a Romance
When my sister gave me this book and told me I had to read it, I was hesitant. I'm not one for most romance novels, but the art on the cover intrigued me. Once I began, I couldn't stop. Byatt seamlessly weaves two relationships set years apart into a delightful, inventive, breathtakingly written whole. The characters, especially the poets in the earlier story, seem so real, and so much of their world is meticulously created, down to some of the poets' actual poems, that I was almost convinced they really existed. This book worked for me on many levels: literary, romance, and mystery-solving. It's got my vote for one of the best novels of the 20th century.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hidden passion
"Possession" is far above and beyond the kind of books usually labelled "romance." It's lushly written, with exquisite characters, great poetry and interweavings of legend and myth. It's almost chastely erotic, mysterious and dripping over with Victorian-era romance. It's hard not to be drawn in.

A young scholar, Roland, stumbles accidently on an old letter from acclaimed poet Randolph Ash. He soon has reason to believe that the letter was to Christabel La Monte, a lesser-known "fairy" poet -- except Ash was happily married, and La Monte was single all her life. Roland and the chilly fellow scholar Maud investigate caches of hidden letters, poems, and diaries by the lovers, wife, friends and relatives.

In the past, the cordial letters of Christabel and Randolph blossomed into love and passion. They vanished for a short, blissful time together. But what happened to Christabel and Randolph's love, and why did Christabel leave England, while her companion Blanche committed suicide? And how do these events somehow involve Roland and Maude's own growing attachment?

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and in "Possession" it's a valuable historical tool. When words are hidden or read, it can change perceptions and even lives. Byatt's own words are wonderfully lush, dreamy and vivid. Given the rather formal language and writing, it almost seems like a nineteenth-century novel, as if Byatt got so swept up in the characters that she started writing like them.

Byatt has an excellent eye for the language of the era. The letters, poetry and fiction of Christabel and Randolph have a very authentic feel. Especially since Byatt manages to change tones for different people's writing (Christabel's poetry was a bit reminiscent of Emily Dickenson's). The only problem is when the book veers into long tangents; Byatt seems to get a little off-track there. But most of the time, the richness of Breton legend adds depth and mystery to an already beautiful novel. The sunken city of Is, the legend of Melusina, and many others are here.

Byatt gives us an amazing look at the ill-fated lovers, Christabel and Randolph; you can feel their passion and love. They aren't just attracted to each other, but drawn together in the mind and spirit. The supporting characters, such as the artist Blanche and devoted, wistful Ellen Ash, are equally well-drawn; you can't dislike any of them. Roland and Maud seem a little anemic by comparison, but they are still compelling characters, caught up in a love affair from over a hundred years ago.

After taking the recommendation of a good friend, I found that "Possession" is the kind of genuine, heartwrenching romance that you don't see much of -- meetings of minds, genuine passion and love. It's a beautiful thing, and something to be deeply treasured. ... Read more

18. Vintage Byatt
by A.S. Byatt
Paperback: 208 Pages (2004-10-12)
list price: US$9.95 -- used & new: US$4.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400077451
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Fabulist, realist, critic, and winner of the Booker Prize for her now-classic novel Possession, A. S. Byatt has boundless intellectual and literary gifts and a fathomless imagination on which to nourish them. Her novels, stories, and essays allow us to see both our own and other worlds and times and, perhaps most brilliantly, the connections between them.

Vintage Byatt includes a self-contained section from the bestselling Possession; selections from the Matisse Stories, Elementals, Sugar and Other Stories, and the recent Little Black Book of Stories; and essays from the collection Passions of the Mind.

Vintage Readers are a perfect introduction to some of the great modern writers, presented in attractive, affordable paperback editions. ... Read more

19. A. S. Byatt: Art, Authorship, Creativity
by Christien Franken
Hardcover: 184 Pages (2001-08-18)
list price: US$105.00 -- used & new: US$104.04
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0333801083
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
This book considers the work of the novelist and critic A.S. Byatt in the context of contemporary debates about art, authorship, creativity, and gender. A.S. Byatt emerges as an author who presents us with fascinating and ambivalent portraits of writers and who uses metaphors of creativity in original ways.
... Read more

20. Imagining Characters: Six Conversations About Women Writers: Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Willa Cather, Iris Murdoch, and Toni Morrison
by A.S. Byatt, Ignes Sodre
Paperback: 288 Pages (1997-09-02)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$6.81
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679777539
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
In this innovative and wide-ranging book, Byatt and the psychoanalyst Ignes Sodre bring their different sensibilities to bear on six novels they have read and loved: Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Bronte's Villette, George Elliot's Daniel Deronda, Willa Cather's The Professor's House, Iris Murdoch's An Unofficial Rose, and Toni Morrison's Beloved. The results are nothing less than an education in the ways literature grips its readers and, at times, transforms their lives. Imagining Characters is indispensable, a work of criticism that returns us to the books it discusses with renewed respect and wonder. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Eavesdropping on Great Conversations
The happiest moments of a liberal arts education usually take place late in the evening in a dormitory lounge or in a local bistro over several cups of coffee.They're conversations, often between two similarly minded people, that explore a favorite subject.Browsing through Imagining Characters is like lingering in a seat at the next table.

The works selected are an English major's hit list of mainly nineteenth century women's novels.Byatt and Sodre bring their experience as a fiction writer and a clinical psychologist, respectively, to their understandings and develop complementary insights rather than rigorous debates.

This isn't everyone's cup of java.The reader who enjoys this volume probably relishes at least half of the novels discussed, smiles at being called a feminist, and prefers discussion to formal criticism. ... Read more

  1-20 of 100 | Next 20
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  

Prices listed on this site are subject to change without notice.
Questions on ordering or shipping? click here for help.

site stats