I’m warning you that this is a convo for people who have read the book. If you ever think you want to read it and hate spoilers, please do not read on. You’ll hate me and yourself. Probably in that order.
First Sentence: “The book was thick and black and covered with dust.”
OK, let’s start with a bang. Not until Ellen’s grand confession of the most delicate and private truths as to what kind of marriage she had with Poet Ash, did I even question or wonder who knocked up the maid in Chapter _?_. (I couldn’t find it.) Can you say FORESHADOWING that went WAY over my head I didn’t even notice anything went by? So, we have a pregnant girl who disappears soon before the birth and we never know what happens. And Poet Ash did it! He had to. Makes sense to me, anyway. He was both admirable and despiscable.
Ellen was passive-aggressive. Did she or didn’t she want everyone to know? Yes to both. Poor thing. Couldn’t decide… And really POOR THING that she got what she wanted (or didn’t) and never knew what she was missing. AND THEN, her understanding somewhat faithful husband!!! whoa.
Ellen – truly the most tragic figure in the book. And her husband gallivants around the countryside to study biology. It’s rather humorous.
I loved that the child was anti-poetry. HA!
I was tripped up how many great-greats Christabel was to Maud. Didn’t there seem to be an excessive amount? Just looked – there were 3. So if Maud was in her thirties in 1986, she could have been born in, let’s say 1953. If I subtract 22 for her mother’s birth year, we get 1931. Then for her mother, which would be Maud’s GRANDMOTHER, another 22 years back would be 1909. That puts Maud’s FIRST great-grandma born in 1887 and then 2nd great in 1965. SO, they were REALLY young mothers to pop in another layer of generation to get to 1861 for May’s birthday! I know, I’m strange, but the too many great things really took me out of the story…
Not that I didn’t love the twist that Maud was a relation! So cool. Really should have seen it coming with all the white-blonde and pale skin reference to BOTH of them. What a fun circle back that Maud studies her great-to-the-third-or-second-gma’s work unbeknownst.
And the last chapter was lovely. How sad that Ash and Christabel failed to get their last messages of love to their lover.
Rating: Four slices of pie. I would have to say the pie that best goes with this work is a decadent rich dark chocolate torte with real cream garnish and a few raspberries. (I either was careless and failed to note any pie references or there just weren’t any.)
I can’t give you a five star rating on this because I just didn’t fall in love with the poetry. So the rating is for me because on an academic literary impressive scale, this is a five star book and I do think it deserves all the love and awards it has won.
I don’t have the energy to record all the vocabulary but be assured, this has many words I did not know. But honestly, I was not as intimidated by this like I was for her Matisse stories.
And I’m out of steam. Please visit Kim and Lu for more insight…
If you loved this book, I highly recommend you read Byatt’s lovely novella collection Angels and Insects. Especially the Angels one.