When I first plunged into The Children's Book, what struck me was how real the characters were. Olive Wellwood and her circle of friends and family didn't feel like characters, they felt like people. From just a few sentences, I felt like I knew these children who were wandering through the South Kensington Museum in London, looking for adventure. As I continued to read, I was impressed with how A. S. Byatt succeeded in making the innovations of the late 19th century, like electric lighting and automobiles, seem rare and magical without being trite.
The expansive scope of this novel, and the attention to detail in so many areas - theater, pottery, fairy tales, anarchy, socialism and many others - is impressively handled and rarely does the history interfere with the storytelling. The historical characters (Oscar Wilde, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emma Goldman, Queen Victoria, Auguste Rodin...
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The Children's Book is loosely based on the life of children's writer E. Nesbit.
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