Frederica Books In Order
- The Virgin in the Garden (1978)
- Still Life (1985)
- Babel Tower (1996)
- A Whistling Woman (2002)
- The Game (1967)
- Possession (1990)
- The Shadow of the Sun (1991)
- The Biographer’s Tale (2000)
- The Children’s Book (2009)
- The Matisse Stories (1975)
- Sugar (1987)
- Passions of the Mind (1990)
- Angels and Insects (1992)
- Deadly Sins (1994)
- The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye (1994)
- Elementals (1998)
- The Little Black Book of Stories (2003)
- Medusa’s Ankles (2021)
- Body Art (2011)
- The Pink Ribbon (2011)
- Raw Material (2011)
- A Stone Woman (2011)
- The Thing in the Forest (2011)
- New Writing (1995)
- The Oxford Book of English Short Stories (1998)
- Unruly Times (1970)
- Degrees of Freedom (1994)
- On Histories and Stories (2000)
- Portraits in Fiction (2001)
- Memory (2008)
- Peacock & Vine (2016)
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A S Byatt Books Overview
The year is 1953. A young teacher whose imagination has been captured by the Queen Elizabeth of Shakespeare and Spenser writes a play about the virgin queen. When the play becomes part of Elizabeth II’s coronation festivities, the smalltown pageant gets out of hand. 14 cassettes.
From the author of The New York Times bestseller Possession, comes a highly acclaimed novel which captures in brilliant detail the life of one extended English family and illuminates the choices they must make between domesticity and ambition, life and art. Toni Morrison, author of Beloved, writes of Byatt: ‘When it comes to probing characters her scalpel is sure but gentle. She is a loving surgeon’
At the heart of Babel Tower are two law cases, twin strands of the Establishment’s web, that shape the story: a painful divorce and custody suit and the prosecution of an ‘obscene’ book. Frederica, the independent young hero*ine, is involved in both. She startled her intellectual circle of friends by marrying a young country squire, whose violent streak has now been turned against her. Fleeing to London with their young son, she gets a teaching job in an art school, where she is thrown into the thick of the new decade. Poets and painters are denying the value of the past, fostering dreams of rebellion, which focus around a strange, charismatic figure the near naked, unkempt and smelly Jude Mason, with his flowing gray hair, a hippie before his time. We feel the growing unease, the undertones of sex and cruelty. The tension erupts over his novel Babbletower, set in a past revolutionary era, where a band of people retire to a castle to found an ideal community. In this book, as in the courtrooms, as in the art school’s haphazard clas*ses and on the committee set up to study ‘the teaching of language,’ people function increasingly in groups. Many are obsessed with protecting the young, but the fashionable notion of children as innocent and free slowly comes to seem wishful, and perilous. Babel Tower is the third, following The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life, of a planned quartet of novels set in different mid century time frames. The personal and legal crises of Frederica mirror those of the age. This is the decade of the Beatles, the Death of God, the birth of computer languages. In Byatt’s vision, the presiding genius of the 1960s seems to be a blend of the Marquis de Sade and The Hobbit. The resulting confusion, charted with a brilliant imaginative sympathy, is as comic as it is threatening and bizarre.
This electrifying new novel forms the triumphant conclusion to the great Frederica quartet depicting the forces in English life from the early 50s to 1970. While Frederica the spirited hero*ine of Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, and Babel Tower falls almost by accident into a career in television in London, tumultuous events in her home county of Yorkshire threaten to change her life and those of the people she loves. In the late 1960s the world begins to split. Near the university, where the scientists Luk and Jacqueline are studying snails and neurons and the working of the brain, an anti university springs up. On the high moors nearby, a gentle therapeutic community is taken over by a turbulent, charismatic leader. Visions of blood and flames, of mirrors and doubles, share the refracting energy of Frederica’s mosaic like television shows. The languages of religion, myth and fairy tale overlap with the terms of science and the new computer age. Darkness and light are in perpetual tension and the meaning of love itself seems to vanish; people flounder, often comically, to find their true sexual, intellectual and emotional identity. The focus of these novels first widened from the old nuclear family to the experimental group and now narrows again to reveal the different, modern patterns of intimacy which emerged in these years. Through her wayward, lovingly drawn characters and breath taking twists of plot, Byatt illuminates the effervescence of the 1960s both its excitements and its dangers as no one has done before. A Whistling Woman is the ultimate novel of ideas made flesh gloriously sensual, sexy and scary, bursting with ideas, contradictions, scientific discoveries, ethical conflicts, sly humour and wonderful humanity.
Read by Wanda McCaddon When they were little girls, Cassandra and Julia played a game in which they entered an alternate world modeled on the landscapes of Arthurian romance. Now, the sisters are grown and have become hostile strangers until a figure from their past, a man they once both loved and suffered over, reenters their lives. It is the skittish, snake obsessed Simon who draws Julia and Cassandra into his charismatic orbit…
and into menacing proximity to each other, their discarded selves, and The Game that neither of them has completely forgotten. What ensues is both shocking and as inevitable as a classical tragedy.
Hailed by The New York Times Book Review as ‘a gifted observer, able to discern the exact details that bring whole worlds into being’ and ‘a storyteller who could keep a sultan on the edge of his throne for a thousand and one nights,’ A. S. Byatt writes some of the most engaging and skillful novels of our time. Time magazine calls her ‘a novelist of dazzling inventiveness.’ Possession, for which Byatt won England’s prestigious Booker Prize, was praised by critics on both sides of the Atlantic when it was first published in 1990. ‘On academic rivalry and obsession, Byatt is delicious. On the nature of Possession the lover by the beloved, the biographer by his subject she is profound,’ said The Sunday Times London. The New Yorker dubbed it ‘more fun to read than The Name of the Rose…
Its prankish verve and monstrous richness of detail make for a one woman variety show of literary styles and types.’ The novel traces a pair of young academics Roland Michell and Maud Bailey as they uncover a clandestine love affair between two long dead Victorian poets. Interwoven in a mesmerizing pastiche are love letters and fairytales, extracts from biographies and scholarly accounts, creating a sensuous and utterly delightful novel of ideas and passions. With an Introduction by the author that describes the novel’s origins and its twenty year gestation, this Modern Library edition is a handsome keepsake for fans of Possession new and old alike.
This is the debut novel by the author of the bestselling Possession. Byatt tells the story of troubled, sensitive seventeen year old Anna Severell, who struggles to discover and develop her own personality in the shadow of her father, a renowned novelist. New Introduction by the Author.
From the award winning author of Possession and Angels and Insects comes an ingenious new novel about love and literary sleuthing: a dazzling fiction woven out of one man’s search for fact. It tells the story of Phineas G. Nanson, a disenchanted young graduate student who decides to escape the world of postmodern literary theory and immerse himself in the messiness of ‘real life’ by writing a biography of a great biographer. For what could be more real than biography, the ‘art of things, of arranged facts’? But Phineas quickly discovers that facts can be unreliable, and a ‘whole life’ hard to find. No matter how hard he tries, he unearths only fragments disconnected manuscripts, bones and husks, strands of poetry, boxes of marbles, undated photographs. How does one put together the idea of a person? Phineas tracks his subjects’ journeys to the deserts of Africa and the maelstroms of the Arctic in a series of adventures that are by turns intellectual and comic, scientific and erotic. He meets others who are building wholes from bits and pieces: a beautiful radiographer, ecologists, anthropologists, even travel agents offering the trip of your dreams. But they seem only to make his task more difficult. And as he tries to sort through the cabinet of curiosities that is the past, he must also decide his own future, and face the most difficult puzzle of all: which woman will guide him out of this dizzying labyrinth and back into his own life?With The Biographer’s Tale, A. S. Byatt hailed by the New York Times Book Review as ‘a storyteller who could keep a sultan on the edge of his throne for 1,001 nights’ asks provocative questions about our perennial quest for certainty, about ‘truth’ in biography, about the nature of the imagination and the meaning of meaning, even as she spins a tantalizing yarn of detection and desire.
From the renowned author of Possession, The Children’s Book is the absorbing story of the close of what has been called the Edwardian summer: the deceptively languid, blissful period that ended with the cataclysmic destruction of World War I. In this compelling novel, A.S. Byatt summons up a whole era, revealing that beneath its golden surface lay tensions that would explode into war, revolution and unbelievable change for the generation that came of age before 1914 and, most of all, for their children. The novel centres around Olive Wellwood, a fairy tale writer, and her circle, which includes the brilliant, erratic craftsman Benedict Fludd and his apprentice Phillip Warren, a runaway from the poverty of the Potteries; Prosper Cain, the soldier who directs what will become the Victoria and Albert Museum; Olive s brother in law Basil Wellwood, an officer of the Bank of England; and many others from every layer of society. A.S. Byatt traces their lives in intimate detail and moves between generations, following the children who must choose whether to follow the roles expected of them or stand up to their parents porcelain socialism. Olive s daughter Dorothy wishes to become a doctor, while her other daughter, Hedda, wants to fight for votes for women. Her son Tom, sent to an upper class school, wants nothing more than to spend time in the woods, tracking birds and foxes. Her nephew Charles becomes embroiled with German influenced revolutionaries. Their portraits connect the political issues at the heart of nascent feminism and socialism with grave personal dilemmas, interlacing until The Children s Book becomes a perfect depiction of an entire world. Olive is a fairy tale writer in the era of Peter Pan and Kenneth Grahame s The Wind In the Willows, not long after Alice s Adventures in Wonderland. At a time when children in England suffered deprivation by the millions, the concept of childhood was being refined and elaborated in ways that still influence us today. For each of her children, Olive writes a special, private book, bound in a different colour and placed on a shelf; when these same children are ferried off into the unremitting destruction of the Great War, the reader is left to wonder who the real children in this novel are. The Children s Book is an astonishing novel. It is an historical feat that brings to life an era that helped shape our own as well as a gripping, personal novel about parents and children, life s most painful struggles and its richest pleasures. No other writer could have imagined it or created it.
These three stories celebrate the eye even as they reveal its unexpected proximity to the heart. For if each of A.S. Byatt’s narratives is in some way inspired by a painting of Henri Matisse, each is also about the intimate connection between seeing and feeling about the ways in which a glance we meant to be casual may suddenly call forth the deepest reserves of our being. Beautifully written, intensely observed, The Matisse Stories is fiction of spellbinding authority.’Full of delight and humor…
The Matisse Stories is studded with brilliantly apt images and a fine sense for subtleties of conversation and emotion.’ San Francisco ChronicleFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
A.S. Byatt’s short fictions, collected in paperback for the first time, explore the fragile ties between generations, the dizzying abyss of loss and the elaborate memories we construct against it, resulting in a book that compels us to inhabit other lives and returns us to our own with new knowledge, compassion, and a sense of wonder.
Whether she is writing about George Eliot or Sylvia Plath; Victorian spiritual malaise or Toni Morrison; mythic strands in the novels of Iris Murdoch and Saul Bellow; politics behind the popularity of Barbara Pym or the ambitions that underlie her own fiction, Byatt manages to be challenging, entertaining, and unflinchingly committed to the alliance of literature and life. From the Trade Paperback edition.
The author of Possession returns to the territory of her bestselling novel in two breathtaking fictions that explore the social and psychic landscape of Victorian England. Set in a proper country house with undercurrents of brutality and at a seance where historical figures yearn for one another, these works remind us of Byatt’s powers.
The magnificent title story of this collection of fairy tales for adults describes the strange and uncanny relationship between its extravagantly intelligent hero*ine a world renowned scholar of the art of story telling and the marvelous being that lives in a mysterious bottle, found in a dusty shop in an Istanbul bazaar. As A.S. Byatt renders this relationship with a powerful combination of erudition and passion, she makes the interaction of the natural and the supernatural seem not only convincing, but inevitable. The companion stories in this collection each display different facets of Byatt’s remarkable gift for enchantment. They range from fables of sexual obsession to allegories of political tragedy; they draw us into narratives that are as mesmerizing as dreams and as bracing as philosophical meditations; and they all us to inhabit an imaginative universe astonishing in the precision of its detail, its intellectual consistency, and its splendor.’A dreamy treat…
. It is not merely strange, it is wondrous.’ Boston Globe’Alternatingly erudite and earthy, direct and playful…
. If Scheherazade ever needs a break, Byatt can step in, indefinitely.’ Chicago Tribune’Byatt’s writing is crystalline and splendidly imaginative…
. These are perfectly formed tales.’ Washington Post Book WorldFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
A new volume of stories from A. S. Byatt is always a joy, and this one is rich and rare indeed. In the same distinctive format as The Matisse Stories and The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, this collection deals with betrayal and loyalty, quests and longings, loneliness and passion the mysterious absences at the heart of the fullest lives. A woman walks away from her previous existence and encounters an ice blond stranger from a secretive world; a schoolgirl draws a blood filled picture of the biblical hero*ine Jael; a swimming pool reveals a beauteous monster in its depths. The settings of Elementals range from the heat of Provence in summer to the cold forests of Scandinavia, from chalk strewn classrooms to herb scented hillsides, from suburban streets to rocky wilds. A marvelous present for all A. S. Byatt fans, this magical collection will also serve as a perfect introduction to one of our finest contemporary writers.
Like Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, Isak Dinesen and Angela Carter, A. S. Byatt knows that fairy tales are for grownups. And in this ravishing collection she breathes new life into the form.
Little Black Book of Stories offers shivers along with magical thrills. Leaves rustle underfoot in a dark wood: two middle aged women, childhood friends reunited by chance, venture into a dark forest where once, many years before, they saw or thought they saw something unspeakable. Another woman, recently bereaved, finds herself slowly but surely turning into stone. A coolly rational ob gyn has his world pushed off axis by a waiflike art student with her own ideas about the uses of the body. Spellbinding, witty, lovely, terrifying, the Little Black Book of Stories is Byatt at the height of her craft.
‘The subjects of these stories range from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the momentous to the trivial, from the grim to the farcical,’ writes acclaimed novelist A.S. Byatt in her introduction to this remarkable collection. Indeed, if the eccentricities of the English imagination can be contained in a single volume, an anthology of short stories might be the best book for the task.
From Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, and Thomas Hardy through Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, D.H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf, right up to Graham Greene, J.G. Ballard, Angela Carter, Ian McEwan, and many others, The Oxford Book of English Short Stories exhibits the capacious and often capricious nature of the English literary sensibility. ‘There is English empiricism, English pragmatism, English starkness, English humour, English satire, English dandyism, English horror, and English whimsy,’ notes A.S. Byatt in surveying the stories she has selected. ‘There are characteristic mixed modes which seem to go back further than Austen and Defoe to Chaucer and Shakespeare.’ Byatt shows us the links between stories, the literary currents that both connect and distinguish writers as diverse as Mary Mann, V.S. Pritchett, P.G. Wodehouse, Penelope Fitzgerald, and Alan Sillitoe. And although the thirty seven stories gathered here range from social realism to surreal fantasy, from rural poverty to war blitzed London, from tales of the supernatural to precise delineations of the mundane, all are unified by Byatt’s demanding criteria that the works be both ‘startling and satisfying.’
For short story lovers and anyone unable to resist the enchantments of the English imagination, The Oxford Book of Short Stories offers a wide array of unforgettable pleasures.
As writers of English from Australia to India to Sri Lanka command our attention, Salman Rushdie can state confidently that English fiction was moribund until the Empire wrote back, and few, even among the British, demur. A. S. Byatt does, and her case is persuasive. In a series of essays on the complicated relations between reading, writing, and remembering, the gifted novelist and critic sorts the modish from the merely interesting and the truly good to arrive at a new view of British writing in our time. Whether writing about the renaissance of the historical novel, discussing her own translation of historical fact into fiction, or exploring the recent European revival of interest in myth, folklore, and fairytale, Byatt’s abiding concern here is with the interplay of fiction and history. Her essays amount to an eloquent and often moving meditation on the commitment to historical narrative and storytelling that she shares with many of her British and European contemporaries. With copious illustration and abundant insights into writers from Elizabeth Bowen and Henry Green to Anthony Burgess, William Golding, Muriel Spark, Penelope Fitzgerald, Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Hilary Mantel, and Pat Barker, On Histories and Stories is an oblique defense of the art Byatt practices and a map of the complex affiliations of British and European narrative since 1945. 20010213