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A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, that spans the Victorian era through the World War I years, and centers around a famous children’s book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.
When Olive Wellwood’s oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum—a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive’s magical tales—she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.
But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these lives—of adults and children…[more]
The magnificent title story of this collection of fairy tales for adults describes the strange and uncanny relationship between its extravagantly intelligent heroine—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.
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.
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 heroine 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.