Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt

Near the beginning of The Children’s Book there is a magical dinner party and the feeling evoked at that party is the feeling of the entire book. The party takes place in the English countryside where there is a sprawling cottage nestled amidst a garden with a wild wood surrounding it. The light seems to hover at the point of dusk, casting an orange glow through ancient orchard trees. There are children playing in and out of the party, always children running around on adventures. The hostess, the main character, writes faerie stories for children and I had the feeling that faeries, and other creatures of her imagination, might appear at any moment. The guests are intellectuals and artists, political activists and refugees. As the evening continues - the lanterns are lit in the trees, the champagne is poured – some of the guests turn out to be fools and philanderers, some have had too much too drink and are making bad decisions, but the story flits from group to group following the conversations and intrigues, never staying too long or leaving too soon. And when I had to close the pages of The Children’s Book, like the characters when the night is over and they had to go home, I was so sad to see it end.
This is one of my favorite books of the year.