With The Children's Book completed (& still nothing said about it here) it was time to return to A History of Food. I'm proud to say that I've almost finished Part V: Luxury Food, and at page 387, in the middle of a section about foie gras, I am over HALFWAY through the book. It's painfully slow going though, & to delay things even more, I nipped out & got Mandel's Wolf Hall. Relief!
The Children's Book seems to have got scant attention here, though I'm annoyed to have missed the author appearing at The Strand tonight (damn). Couldn't make it. She's very discursive, very nineteenth century in scope, & at first you find the movement of the novel ponderous & even irritating in its didactic tone. Soon though, you get sucked into the lives of the central characters, & learn to love Byatt's steady paced account of their era. It's a really interesting examination of the cult of childhood in late Victorian & Edwardian England, particularly as reflected in the kinds of children's literature being written then. The ending of the novel is devastating - the whole pace & tone of the book shifts when she reaches the Great War. Just as the lives of the characters are upturned, lost & disfigured by war, so you, as reader, are disoriented & breathtaken by the sudden narrative change, and the rapid disintegration of the world she has shown us with such painstaking attention. It's one mighty emotional punch.