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Publisher's Summary

Olive Wellwood is a famous writer, interviewed with her children at her side. For each of them she writes a separate private book. In their rambling house near Romney Marsh they play in a story-book world - but their lives, those of their rich cousins and of their friends are already inscribed with mystery...
©2009 A. S. Byatt; (P)2009 WF Howes Ltd
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Customer Reviews

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By Phillip on 05-20-10

Adult book about the pleasures of knowledge

I am a huge fan of A.S. Byatt's Posession, and there are many similarities in this latest book. As an audiobook, the Narrator does a wonderful job with many different characters and story threads.

However, be warned, this is long - over 31 hours, and follows the lives of two generations of a constellation of families living in the English countryside at the turn of the 20th century. This is a very English novel, full of cups of tea, letters and London's museums.

Byatt is brilliant on the gathering forces of England and Germany at the beginning of the 20th century and despite the many different story threads and length I very much enjoyed the time I spend with this book.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful


By Megan on 09-27-11

A feast of ideas and characters.

I really enjoyed this audiobook. I loved both the story and narration. There are so many levels of ideas and meaning that make it a fascinating "read' and a storyline that makes it an enjoyable one.

I loved the amount of information about the historical period and the Arts and Crafts Movement but some might find this overwhelming.

I read some reviews of the print edition that said the book was too complex and too hard to follow, so I was a bit nervous about listening to it instead. But I had no trouble at all - in fact it may have been easier to understand than the print version because Byatt writes in such long involved paragraphs that I find visually hard to follow.


I have been able to listen in big slabs of time which probably helped me follow and maintain interest in the story - I can imagine it might be harder if I had to listen in short bursts or was trying to multitask while listening, just because it is so long.

There are a lot of characters, and some could have been better developed but I still found myself wishing I could meet many of them.


The narrator has done a great job - a seamless reading in a very appropriate accent. With so many characters it must have been challenging to try and express them all differently but she did a great job.


Overall one of the best Audible downloads I have listened to in a long time.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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By Nancy Bowring on 01-11-10

Magical and tragic - highly recommended

For an audiobook, the large cast of characters could become confusing to the listener. However, Nicolette McKenzie's superb dramatisation, fine tuning to accents and dialects, giving each character his/her own unique voice and personality, I soon knew everyone without having to be told "he said/she said".
I loved this book and all the stories - fairy tales and real life - will remain with me for a long time. The combination of A.S. Byatt's fine writing and Nicky McKenzie's skilled narration brought historical events (well researched and very informative) to life so that they seemed real to me and as if I'd experienced them first hand myself. I cannot recommend this audiobook highly enough.

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40 of 41 people found this review helpful


By Pamela on 04-13-10

Definitely worth a listen!

If this hadn't been an audible book I doubt I'd have ever finished it! This is a huge, meticulously researched and detailed book in which A S Byatt brings the customs, manners and contradictions of late 19th century England to life.

The narrator is brilliant - her characterisations were perfect and I always knew who was speaking to whom. This was particularly valuable because there is a large and varied cast!

Some of the descriptions (especially of puppet shows) were rather too long in my opinion and occasionally the narrative felt a little turgid. Howevever, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, learned so much more about life in England in the late 19th/early 20th centuries and really cared about what happened to the characters.

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13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By kate on 12-07-17

A superbly researched family saga

A hugely detailed story spanning the end of the 19th century & the first two decades of the 20th. A tale of politics, family values (or lack of them) the birth of the Victoria & Albert museum, the class divide, women's suffrage & the horror & waste of the First World War intertwined with the story of a working class runaway from the potteries who dreams of becoming a true artist. The boy, Philip Warren, is taken in by a self-centred Children's novelist & introduced to a brilliant but troubled potter. A detailed & extraordinarily well researched book; a window on the social & political issues of the time wrapped up in a really good story!

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By erina reddan on 04-27-17

compelling and profound

this is a breath taking and ambitious novel that sucks you in and and hiolds you tight. it is an intelligent and wisely observed critique of events leading up to ww1? an exploration of art and the effect of rules on our ability to breath. rather wonderful. I am so grateful to the author.

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