lunabee34: (reading by sallymn)
[personal profile] lunabee34
A Whistling WomanA Whistling Woman by A.S. Byatt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What a fantastic conclusion to this series of books. I remain in awe of Byatt's skill as a writer. The previous books are bookended with glimpses into the future and then settle into a narrative that happened in the past. This book doesn't begin that way, and the reader slowly realizes that this book is taking place in the future that starts and ends the previous three; there's a wonderful moment where Byatt takes you full-circle back to the very beginning book and shows you a moment happening in that future scene from a different perspective. So very well done and makes me believe she had all four books plotted out before she ever put pen to paper for the first.

Again, way too much child harm in this book for my tastes; fortunately, it was not belabored, but still. Too much. If I wasn't already way too invested in this series not to finish it, I would have had serious reservations about doing so.

There's an element of repressed violence throughout the whole thing. Some of the characters have gone to live in what amounts to a religious cult, and the narrative is clearly building to some terrible end. I love that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop and wondering exactly what form the terror will take.

The novel is set against the backdrop of the late sixties with students protesting everything from war to institutions of education themselves. It manages to acknowledge the ways in which these protests are ridiculous and meaningless exercises as well as the ways in which they are reasoned arguments for needed change. Byatt also touches on an issue very pertinent today: who should be allowed to speak on a college campus? Should students be able to silence voices with which they disagree?

I absolutely adore that Byatt ends the novel exactly the way she ends Agatha's novel that she reads aloud to Leo and Saskia: right in the thick of things, en medias res, with no true conclusion and everything up in the air, which is as it should be. I don't want Frederica to be neatly concluded with all the threads tied off. That ending is a brilliant piece of craftsmanship.

I highly recommend the Potter Quartet. I want to write like A.S. Byatt when I grow up, but in the interim, I'll settle for reading the original. :)



View all my reviews

(no subject)

23/5/17 16:29 (UTC)
makamu: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] makamu
Oh, I agree with what you say here - while I find Byatt the person annoying at times, there is literally nothing in my life as a reader that was not improved by encountering her work when I was young-ish (my English teacher gave me Possession to read when I was sixteen).

Thank you for the reminder that I am due for a re-read

(no subject)

24/5/17 14:40 (UTC)
makamu: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] makamu
Hey! Sorry for barging in like this as a newbie, but seeing a post about one of my favourite writers seemed as good a time as any :)

I don't know anything about Byatt the person. I don't often try to find out about writers or actors or other creators I like because I'm afraid of being disappointed or disgusted by what I find. LOL

Oh, I don't go looking in the case of authors that often either. Actors are a bit different, but even there I always say that I am more interested in the contents of their bookshelves than their closets or beds.

Byatt's a bit of a special case, though: firstly, because one of my formative university professors wrote her dissertation on Byatt (she is one of the leading experts on Byatt in Germany because of that diss), then she met the author at a conference and geeked out a bit...and apparently Byatt was so caustic and dismissive that my professor was no longer able to read her more recent work because of it. That strengthened me in my belief to stay the hell away from content creators whose work I like, though... But, alas, when she was an academic, Byatt did some work I need to consult for my dissertation. Let me put it this way: her narrators are interesting - her non-fiction voice is more grating.

Nonetheless, you are right about Possession being a true masterpiece. I must have read it half a dozen times by now

(no subject)

25/5/17 13:27 (UTC)
makamu: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] makamu
Was your dissertation on Iris Murdoch or something else?

First of all, thank you for already talking about the Beloved Project of Doom as if it were in the bag. It's very much a thing of the present and will be with me until March next year as things now stand. :) I read her book on Wordsworth and Coleridge as background reading for my chapter on the Romantics and Frankenstein. My whole dissertation is about disability and gender identity (in relation to how cultures deal with contingency) in select works of British and Irish literature and television from early modernity (good ol' Will) to the present day.

(no subject)

26/5/17 12:17 (UTC)
makamu: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] makamu
You are so close to being finished. Yay!

On the whole, it's going a lot better than I dared hope at the beginning. You see, right out of the gate I had the sort of RL problems that you have to spend all your time solving, and that dragged on for the better part of a year, so I am a year behind my original schedule. But thankfully, my adviser is a kind man and he has so far considered my first drafts good enough (he always says "you have probably thought of all the stuff you *could* add and the few things you should...so I'll keep my mouth shut" - which tells you a lot about my perfectionist streak, I suppose). And so I am pottering along, trying to keep myself from going down every shiny tangent.

What a really cool project. What else are you discussing besides Frankenstein?

Well, my main argument is that the representation of disabled characters has shifted and broadened over the course of Western modernity and that this roughly correlates with a shift from seeing contingency primarily as something dangerous to seeing it first as an anbiguous and then as a positive resource. And I am offering one possible track through the jungle of literary history:

- William Shakespeare Richard III - kind of obvious, which is why I had to include it (I don't mind since I love Shakespeare - I think not being exposed to him until the tail-end of highschool helps here, judging from the groaning response you get in most general Internet discussions)

- Frankenstein

- Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White (a mid-Victorian Gothic/ sensation novel), which offers a critical commentary on how the madwomen in the attic might be patriarchal creations)

- Lady Chatterley's Lover

- The Holy City by Patrick McCabe an Irish neo-Gothic novel about a mentally ill murderer, whose mental delusions are related to the history of Irish Partition)

- some episodes of Call the Midwife, a recent BBC period drama set in the 1950s and 1960s, which featured pregnant disabled characters/ disabled characters in sexual relationships in recent episodes.

Sorry for keeping this relatively short, but I am very much afraid, I'd talk your ear off otherwise :) Thank you for taking an interest

(no subject)

23/5/17 20:01 (UTC)
kore: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] kore
I want to write like A.S. Byatt when I grow up, but in the interim, I'll settle for reading the original

SERIOUSLY

You make me want to reread WW again! I think I only reread it once. And that was quite a while ago. Reading the whole quartet at once is a pretty amazing experience.

(no subject)

24/5/17 01:56 (UTC)
kore: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] kore
Heh, I think I reread the first one right after finishing the last one. There definitely are a lot of echoes.

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