A Bookly Wednesday: The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt | Thoughts & Update #1

How innocent it looks......

     Le sigh of 'oh shit.' This seemingly moderately-sized tome is finally beginning to reduce my thoughts to pinings of the disappearance of that figurative brick wall that seems to appear in front of me and block me with every five pages of this book that pass. While I'm not going to throw in the towel on this, pack it away and move on to another read just yet, allow me to just reiterate from my first post of this novel, the sheer number of developed characters that are contained within this book. The families are all of the same timeline, same narrative, they are all acquainted with one another, and are constantly appearing and developing with each page.

Oh, don't know where I'm going with this? Just take a look at all these characters...

It cut off the bottom of the page, but oh, if only that was all......

Dear God, is that taxing, or is it taxing as shit?  Let's see: at least seven families in this, but not all have family trees, as some are just married couples, yes? Well, I wouldn't mind that number of characters and extended family stories if, and only if,  it were part of a biography or memoir of a historical figure or a work of non-fiction. However, this is such an artistic fictional novel of sorts (with elements of fantasy, but that's used loosely in this book's respect, as only Olive Wellwood's stories have elements of fantasy, and they're not within the central narrative).

I don't know if my thoughts would echo others, but in my eyes, having such a vast amount of personalities and characteristics to remember for a book like this isn't advanced applied reading, it's simply a right pain in the ass. It's just too much work, unless of course, the reader is into that. If so, then ohhh yes, this is definitely for you! But with the amount of novels on my TBR list on Goodreads, I'm beginning to wonder if I should really even bother continuing.


While pregnant Olive Wellwood (the married author of children's stories) and Philip (the young potter) and his sister Elsie remain my favorites in the novel, apart from others like young Tom Wellwood and maybe the surly jackass, but charmingly relatable working class pottery savant that is Benedict Fludd, the other characters and their stories just seem to be smudged blurs on the page to me. None of them really stand out as of yet, and I have just arrived at page 250.

So, What About the Pace of the Novel?

Olive's stories are contained as separate entities for us to read, and I must say that I initially thought I would dread whenever they appeared, as all those kind, awesome people on Goodreads didn't seem to care for them being sprinkled throughout the book very much, and from a lot of reviews, they just skipped ahead of those parts. Not me. I don't really do that with books. And I'm glad I did read them, because surprisingly, thus far, I find Olive's shadow hunting story fantastic. I have yet to find these stories detracting from the main narrative in any way or slowing the pace down at all. I was surprisingly really enjoying reading them.

However, the elements of adultery included in the book between certain married couples certainly don't help with the pace and tone of the story; they seem forced and out of place, almost unnatural. Seemingly every form of art has its own place in this book, and to a couple of the characters, sex seems to be an art form of its own. That's fine and all, and this has nowhere near turned into something that's akin to being 50 Shades nonsense or anything, as the adulterous behaviors have actually been kept relatively tame, and the acts themselves are moreso alluded to the reader, which keeps the focus elsewhere. I just hope the storyline maintains itself, and keeps away from it, for the most part. It's just better off without it.

Overall Thoughts So Far

Despite its minute intricacies, shit-ton of characters, and loaded blocks of text without much of any paragraph breaks in some parts, it is a masterfully written piece, and A.S. Byatt is an astounding visionary, and really knows her way of putting a place and a situation in a reader's mind without hesitation, while causing us to think of the outcome and the future for these characters. This is quite an achievement of hers, as we are introduced to so many styles of art that were prevalent in places like England, Paris, and Munich at the close of the 1800s, and their processes and different techniques being highlighted throughout. I find that with the art being brought to life by these young children and their tutors, interwoven into their own stories and their own visions captivating enough. In a sense, I just know that I have to keep reading. It's almost compulsive, and I find that while it can be exhausting, anyone who looks to visionaries or has an artistic bone in their body can get something from this book, and garner appreciation for it as well as an overall excitement and joy to read! I can try to deal with the quantity of characters for the time being, and will attempt to continue to get lost in Byatt's majestic, spellbinding depths of storytelling, prose and imagery.

Expect more updates to come! Until next time! 😁

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