Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Bloggers' Book Club vs. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt - who won?

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt was the Bloggers' Book Club choice for June. I didn't get it until last week when Ann kindly gave me her copy from the library when we met for lunch - yes, it was so nice to meet a fellow blogger in reality rather than virtually and we had a lovely chat - and she will probably write her own comment on the book.

For me - I was defeated before I even started. I didn't like the premise of the book, writing stories for children in Edwardian or Victorian times seemed a bit pretentious to me anyway, and the size of the book was pretty intimidating for a summer read that wasn't blockbuster/bodice-ripper/chick-lit genre. I got about 40 or 50 pages into it and found I kept losing track of the characters, there was a touch of The Railway Children about the opening pages without the promise of a good yarn along the way, and I slowly found myself losing the will to live.

So I quit while I was still breathing unaided. I returned to the book I had set aside in the effort - The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver - with a sigh of relief and I am thoroughly enjoying her rehash of the lives of revolutionary Mexico in the mid-War years as seen through the eyes of a house staff member of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, complete with houseguest asylum seeker Trotsky. The history in this book is all very accessible and readable and maybe I just wasn't able to deal with all the preachy detail in the Children's Book, as it too is full of history and way too much information on everything, so maybe I just need to 'fess up to not being as clever or intellectual as I like to think I am!

Anyway this is short as people will drop by to see what I thought of the book, and I don't want to chicken out of commenting on it - if I sign up to the group I feel I should participate - and that's not done grudgingly but from respect for those who put the effort into it - and I have great admiration for those of you who have had the tenacity to see it through. Those who have seem to have mixed feelings about it and so far I haven't read a totally positive review.

I went to Amazon after I quit and was surprised to see the critiques there - so many people said it needed major editing and it seemed to have been lazily proofed that so much unnecessary repetition crept in unnoticed. It seems almost an academic tome if you want to know all about the Arts and Crafts movement and then some, but why dress it up as a novel then?

I guess I am not in a fair position to comment when I failed so spectacularly to read the book, so I will leave it at this. I am really looking forward to re-reading next month's offering - Kingsolver's classic The Poisonwood Bible. This is a long time favourite which I cited in a recent HSE Staff magazine profile (if you want to check out the piece it's on page 88 of the magazine Health Matters) as my favourite book of all time. It resonates on so many levels for me. I hope you all enjoy it as much!


Lily said...

Catherine, we are at the same reading :)

I had to give up on The Children's Book for various reasons.

Like you I am enjoying The Lacuna at the moment. I wrote in a previous post that Barbara Kingsolver will be speaking in Dublin next Monday. http://lilycollison.com/2010/06/27/sunday-reading-miscellany/

I have read and loved The Poisonwood Bible

FoodFunFarmLife said...

Sorry I haven't been around much lately, but am catching up on my blog reading today .... 'The Children's Book' doesn't sound like one which I would enjoy much, either - but 'The Poisonwood Bible' is also one of my all time favourites ... I have heard about 'The Lacuna' & will keep an eye out for it on our bookshelves here.

Marilyn Miller said...

I keep meaning to read Barbara Kingslover. I have read her book about living off the land and really enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I can totally understood you giving up this book Catherine..I doggedly stuck at it, but I wouldn't say I particularly enjoyed it. I have started on the Poisonwood Bible and what a relief to be really enjoying this novel.

Vibrant Ireland said...

Hi, just found your blog & I was glad to find another booklover who gave up on The Children's Book, too. Better things to do & read!

Catherine said...

Thanks for all the comments and happy reading whatever floats your boat!
LILY - I left The Lacuna at work on Friday and am now well into re-reading The Poisonwood Bible and thoroughly enjoying it. Hope your teething problems are truly over. Keep well.

LYNDA - I think any old "Africa hand"couldn't but love that book! The Lacuna is totally different but very enjoyable - not in the same league but she is a great writer. Hope you are well and keeping in good form. I wouldn't bother with the Children's Book unless you had a lot of time and not much choice!

MARILYN - I didn't read that book where she lived off the land for a year, just heard/read about it. She is a lovely writer and the two books I refer to are great - the PBible being a true classic. I haven't read many others, just her short stories.

MARIE - well done on your tenacity! I didn't stick with it like you did - I read your reveiw and you deserve a medal! Glad you are in the same Congolese zone as I am right now and enjoying it thoroughly!

SUSAN - I replied over at your blog - welcome to the land of blogging - we are both following Lynda who commented here - and hope you enjoy it as much as I do - there are a lot of great bloggers out there and you can make some lovely friends - I met one fellow-reader and book club member recently in the real world and it is great fun to find like-minded people out there.

All the best, Catherine

Gill - That British Woman said...

just popped by to say hello....I would like to read The Poisonwood Bible.

Gill in Canada

Milind said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
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Ann said...

As you said Catherine, life is too short. I found the book pretentious, but then maybe like you I am not as clever or intellectual as I like to think I am! But then whom did she write the book for I wonder?