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About the book
  • Published: 1 October 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099535454
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 624
  • RRP: $22.99

The Children's Book

Reissued with a beautiful new illustrative cover, a marvellous and gripping novel of family secrets, art and society by the author of Possession

Famous author Olive Wellwood writes a special private book, bound in different colours, for each of her children. In their rambling house near Romney Marsh they play in a story-book world - but their lives, and those of their rich cousins and their friends, the son and daughter of a curator at the new Victoria and Albert Museum, are already inscribed with mystery. Each family carries its own secrets.

They grow up in the golden summers of Edwardian times, but as the sons rebel against their parents and the girls dream of independent futures, they are unaware that in the darkness ahead they will be betrayed unintentionally by the adults who love them. This is the children's book.

  • Pub date: 1 October 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099535454
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 624
  • RRP: $22.99

About the Author

A S Byatt

A.S. Byatt is a novelist, short-story writer and critic of international renown. Her novels include Possession (winner of the Booker Prize 1990), the Frederica Quartet and The Children’s Book, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. She was appointed CBE in 1990 and DBE in 1999, and was awarded the Erasmus Prize 2016 for her ‘inspiring contribution to life writing’ and the Pak Kyongni Prize 2017. In 2018 she received the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award.

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Praise for The Children's Book

“Intricately worked and sumptuously inlaid novel...seethes and pulses with an entangled life, of the mind and the senses alike. Colour and sensation flood Byatt's writing...she is a master-potter, or magic-working puppeteer”

Boyd Tonkin, Independent

“Superlatively displays both enormous reach and tremendous grip...sizzling with ideas and alive with imaginative energy, too...this is the most stirring novel AS Byatt has written since Possession”

Sunday Times

“It's success is as a novel of ideas, forcefully and often memorably expressed, while the story follows darkening fortunes into a chastened postwar world”

Helen Dunmore, The Times

“Compelling...strenuously inclusive and also tremendously enriching - an intricate tale, energetically fashioned from sturdy strands of material, by "a spinning fairy in the attic", an indefatigable storyteller”

Irish Times

“Astonishing power and resonance”

Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph

“More than a novel, this is a historical primer, discursive, shimmering with colour and texture, containing stories within stories and giving walk-on parts to luminaries of the age... For fans of Byatt this is better than Possession. A truly great novel”

Daily Express

“Light and lustrous, commanding and transporting, The Children's Book is superb”

Daily Mail

“The Children's Book beats even its predecessors”

Julian Evans, Prospect

“The sort of high concept rarefied intellectual fiction we'd expect from, well, A S Byatt. Posession: the next generation”

Sophie Gee, Financial Times

“Beautiful, bracing and bold. Her handling of dialogue is unfussy, precise and rude. This is a moving book. Its words are beautifully chosen... AS Byatt is Gaudi and Christopher Wren rolled in to one”

Tom Adair, Scotsman

“Extraordinary rich book is superbly embedded in the thoughts and beliefs and feelings if the period - and indeed in its interior décor”

Caroline Moore, Spectator

“Magnificent loquacity...gripping and often deeply affecting”

Pamela Norris, Literary Review

“Byatt's novel combines meaty ideas with the breathless page-turning propulsion of an old-fashioned saga... Brimming with intelligence and sensuality, this is the perfect summer book”

Claire Allfree, Metro

“Heartfelt and acute”

Erica Wagner, The Times

“Dense and intense, highly decorated and richly populated...you wonder at her thirst for reading and knowledge and desire to communicate...[and] her prodigious appetite for storytelling...remarkable, peerless, and wilfully and delightfully and unapologetically intellectual, the kind of writer who makes you marvel at what she manages to put on the page”

Alan Taylor, Herald

“Byatt is at her brilliant best...The fantasy here is dark and frightening, going to the edge of what a child can bear. Alongside such rich, strange meat, Harry Potter starts to feel like a vanilla snack for scaredy cats”


“It certainly compares to its popular predecessor [Possession] in daring and scope and...is its equivalent in terms of storytelling and readability. For all of its more than 600 pages it is rarely less than totally absorbing - and often very moving”

Lorna Bradbury, Daily Telegraph

“Byatt has not just produced an engrossing family saga but an anthem for a generation”

Max Davidson, The Mail on Sunday1

“You can count on A.S. Byatt to produce an engrossing saga.”

Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler

“The best thing she's ever done”

Philip Hensher, Daily Telegraph Summer Reads

“Byatt's novel - her first for seven years - is rarely less than totally absorbing and often very moving”

Daily Telegraph Summer Reads

“Byatt being Byatt - which is to say one of the cleverest writers of her generation - her latest novel is anything but childish... The Children's Book is one of the most grown-up you will read all year...Byatt is at her brilliant best marshalling her large cast into a series of set pieces... The personal stories are played out against a meticulously-realised bigger picture... It is in fact a sexy book, full of erotic longing patchily fulfilled. Byatt is never better than when describing Victorians trying to case of their inhibitions along with their clothes and tripping themselves up in the process... The fantasy here is dark and frightening, going to the edge of what a child can bear. Alongside such rich, strange meat, Harry Potter does indeed start to feel like a vanilla snack for scaredy cats.”


“Late in the 19th century three boys meet in what is later to become the V & A museum... Their entwined lives lie at the heart of this brilliant inquiry into art, family and morality at the turn of the century”

Guardian Saturday Review, SUMMER READS

“Ambition, scholarship and exquisite prose”

Joanna Briscoe, Grazia

“Easily the best novel Byatt has written since Possession...displays enormous reach and tremendous grip”

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

“Wonderfully enjoyable”

Christina Koning, The Times


Emily Firetog, Irish Times

“Byatt's first book for seven years takes on the artistic themes of the day in exhilarating detail”

Vanessa Thorpe, Observer

“Majestic and immensley ambitious novel...[a] monument of a novel”

Neal Ascherson, New York Review

“My favourite book of 2009 for its scope, its narrative energy and its sensitivity to the strangeness of familiar-seeming things”

Lawrence Norfolk, Times Literary Supplement

“Totally engrossing”

Lynn Roberts, The Tablet

“AS Byatt's novel could surely be exhibited as a case of superlative novelistic design”

Anita Sethi, Indepedent on Sunday

“Magnificent, intricate novel... Byatt is an enchanter”

Daily Telegraph

“Imaginative brio and intellectual zest winningly combine in a book that sizzles with acute perceptions”

Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times Christmas pick

“Easily the best thing Byatt's written since Possession, her panoramic novel focuses on a bohemian colony of writers and potters in early 20th-century Kent”

Sunday Times Summer Reading

“It's absorbing, lush and full of thoughts, ideas and characters who live with you”

Hannah McGill, Sunday Herald, Christmas round up

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