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Confermo il giudizio di qualche anno fa tre stelle erano e tre stelle restano Antonia Byatt brava, mica no, ha vaste e profonde conoscenze, il mondo accademico di Blesford Ride e gli echi di Cambridge, cos come, pi in generale, il teatro, l arte e la poesia sembrano il pane suo, ma in questo romanzo del 78 non mi sembra che si destreggi con la dovuta disinvoltura nella corposa materia con cui ha arricchito la narrazione Le parti che mi annoiarono allora mi hanno annoiato oggi, anzi alla noia originaria si aggiunta nuova noia e quindi, a voler essere scientifici, la noia raddoppiata.La scrittura molto ricca e iperdescrittiva, troppo gli ambienti, gli arredi, gli oggetti, i quadri e le opere d arte, le assurde visioni di Marcus, perfino le carni della macelleria 2 pagine disgustose, da leggere a stomaco vuoto o con un alka seltzer che frizza nel bicchiere un eccesso che appesantisce il romanzo e che fa lo stesso effetto di quando metti piede nel salotto buono di un anziana zia, cos zeppo di soprammobili, ninnoli, cornici, tende, tappeti, che all uscita devi sbottonarti il colletto della camicia per riguadagnare un po d aria cos carico di cose che l accumulo, anzich incuriosirmi e indurmi a cercar notizie su ci che non sapevo, mi ha ben presto oppresso le visioni geometriche di Marcus e le teorie di Simmonds mi hanno letteralmente annichilito Ma che bisogno c era di dettagliare cos minuziosamente le visioni cavi o piani di fibre intrecciate o arabeschi di luce per pagine e pagine In materia preferisco di gran lunga la lezione di Lovecraft Manca di leggerezza, di ironia e quella che c sfiora la saccenteria, perch nasce dal gioco delle colte citazioni dei personaggi Nei loro dialoghi un po leziosi, soprattutto quelli che si scambiano i protagonisti della rappresentazione di Alexander, quasi tutti fanno sfoggio delle loro conoscenze e Frederica maestra di quest arte esemplare lo scambio di battute con Daniel durante la crisi di Simmonds Frederica grid Aiuto Aiuto Lucas Simmonds delira in mezzo al Bilge Pond, nudo come un verme, e Alexander l , e lui lo minaccia con un coltello E quando dico nudo, intendo nudo Correte tutto coperto di fiori ed erba, come re Lear o l amante di Lady Chatterley Fate qualcosa Hanno sempre detto che ci sono le sanguisughe nello stagno, spaventosamente nero E lui ha un aspetto orribile, non fa che cantare Chiama l ambulanza, disse Daniel a Stephanie, e a Frederica Smettila di urlare Non il caso di darsi arie, disse Daniel a Frederica, irritato Non mi do arie, il mio modo di esprimermi, e sono venuta a chiedere aiuto, questo che conta, o no disse Frederica, scuotendo il capo con l aria sdegnosa e melodrammatica di una menade. Gi , il suo modo di esprimersi citare Shakespeare e Lawrence anche quando corre trafelata a chiamare aiuto per quella che potrebbe essere ricordata come la pi spettacolare catastrofe mai capitata a Blesford Ride Che curiosa adolescente questa Frederica ci viene suggerita, non proprio mostrata, una certa confidenza con la sorella riguardo la comune ammirazione per Alexander , ma nemmeno si accorge che incinta il fratello, poi, non ne parliamo, di lui sa meno di nulla Litiga col padre, come tutti del resto, insopportabile Bill Il rapporto con la madre non pervenuto Gi coltissima, la vediamo alle prese con le sue ambizioni di attrice, in realt appena sbocciate, la sua infatuazione verso Alexander uno strano tira e molla intellettuale che ha poco di adolescenziale, a mio avviso e i suoi maldestri rapporti con l umanit maschile che popola il romanzo, in quella che sembra una poco convinta ricerca della sua liberazione dallo stato virgineo.Per tornare all atmosfera del romanzo, nelle pagine finali Daniel dir di rimpiangere le risate e il calore del loro piccolo appartamento risate e calore Quella casa Byatt ce la mostra s e no in un paio di occasioni e appare piuttosto infestata da esasperazione, rassegnazione, incomunicabilit , poi risolte da improvvisi e inesperti momenti di passione Ha deliberatamente scelto di sottrarre un intero mondo emozionale al primo romanzo dedicato alla giovane Ms Potter e alle persone che le gravitano attorno Ad un certo punto ricordo che descrive la famiglia Potter come segnata da scontrosa cupezza ecco, tutto il romanzo un po troppo pervaso da questa scontrosa cupezza, e freddezza intellettuale, forse che non riesco a comprendere appieno le scelte dell autrice, i suoi obiettivi poetici, ci che l ha spinta a sedersi a tavolino e scrivere queste 500 pagine un romanzo sull inquieta adolescenza di Frederica, sulla sua liberazione sessuale Certo, ma non solo lei ha uno spazio almeno pari a quello di Stephanie, Alexander, Daniel, Marcus e Simmonds un romanzo sull Inghilterra del 52 53 Niente affatto, siamo nel North Yorkshire, un po defilati e l Inghilterra del dopo guerra proprio non si vede un romanzo sull arte Di arte ce n tanta, ma non ho letto nessuna riflessione sull arte, quasi in ogni pagina si parla di poeti e pittori, tragedie e versi, ma per fare accademia fuori dall aula o, come detto, per darsi delle arie.I personaggi vengono messi a confronto con le loro esistenze Daniel, Stephanie, Winifred e nell epilogo, anche Bill o si interrogano sulle pieghe che il destino riserver loro Frederica e Alexander chi per una ragione, chi per un altra, queste donne e uomini non fanno che riflettere sulle scelte da fare o su quelle gi fatte forse proprio questo il motore del romanzo, ma se cos fosse, mi chiedo, non si tratta di un nucleo oppresso da tanta inutile scontrosa cupezza Nota di costume ma quante volte vengono citate le vesti di popeline All epoca dovevano essere particolarmente diffuse in ogni caso, che diavolo sono le vesti di popeline Ecco, mi dice tante cose Antonia Byatt, ma non mi fa venire voglia di saperne di pi comunque ora, almeno queste, vado a cercarle su google This probably is the best book I will have read this year This also is my first Byatt, and I love it This book is dense so dense I picked up a few other books as I was reading it, just to convince myself I did not become a slow reader overnight Byatt manages her subplots and first person narratives exceedingly well the only subplot that seems to belong elsewhere is nicely incorporated towards the end But the BIGGEST THING about it is how psychologically true it feels the psycho plot aside, I m not qualified to assess that In the book that is strikingly intertextual and metatextual to the point of artificiality in the best way possible, I had many a guilty giggle on that account , Byatt places her characters in situations we ache to see changed, and then when no violent incident occurs, no decision is taken, and what was to happen, happens we are compelled to say this feels right and real On my way to locate the rest of The Frederica Quartet.Click here for my review of the second installment of The Frederica Quartet series Still Life and the third 1950s Yorkshire, Frederica Potter, still living at home, senses that something exciting is beginning Stars Hannah Watkins.A wealthy theatre director is producing a play and Frederica Potter is desperate to secure a role.Stephanie is increasingly worried about her brother, Marcus, and the influence a teacher is having on him Stephanie and Daniel declare their feelings for each other but her father reacts badly to the news In coronation year, Bill Potter has trouble accepting his daughter s desire to marry curate Daniel.Stephanie and Daniel settle into married life, while sister Frederica continues with her acting Marcus and Simmonds experiments begin to take on a sinister nature As their experiments continue, Marcus becomes worried over the deterioration of Simmonds state of mind Pompous and asphyxiating, the middle classes, and doubly so those writers who replicate so meticulously, although I did sit closer for Marcus s alchemy experiments with Simmonds I am committed to the tetralogy via R4x, please hope that not all the Spode will be smashed against the Aga in the process, heh4 PossessionOH The Children s Book3 The Virgin in the GardenCR Still Life4 The Matisse StoriesTR Ragnarok If the test of a great novel is that you want to read it again, or pick up the next one this is the first of a quartet then this is a good novel If Still Life the next title in the quartet had been right here on the shelf I d have started it right after I reread the Prologue.The present time of the novel is 1953, the year of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and, in the world of the novel, of a verse drama about the first Queen Elizabeth enacted on the grounds of an old and elegant estate in Yorkshire The story is that of a Yorkshire family father Bill Potter who s reputed to be a magnetic teacher at Blesford Ride, a public school, but we see him primarily as a dogmatic liberal who terrorizes his family while promoting his ideas on education he s for it and religion he s against it Winifred, his wife, caters and defers, of necessity becoming exactly the kind of woman he deplores and whose life her daughters Stephanie and Frederica seek to escape Marcus, the youngest and his mother s favorite, is inner directed, even spiritual, awkward with just about everyone, observant of phenomena of his world and becomes prey for a disturbed science teacher.The novel, which in general is slow moving and highly allusive has a surprisingly dramatic closing sequence for a writer who says she didn t think she could tell stories I had to laugh, though, at the very end the scene is between Daniel, the fat, unkempt priest who marries the elder Potter daughter against the wishes of her parents, and Frederica in the small flat where the pregnant Stephanie is comforting the very disturbed Marcus.Here s the last paragraph Waiting and patience, of this inactive kind, did not come easily to him Or to Frederica, he decided, without much sympathy for her He gave her a cup of tea and the two of them sat together in uncommunicative silence, considering the still and passive pair on the sofa That was not the end, but since it went on for a considerable time, is as good a place to stop as any I loved that ending and asked myself why 1 It caused me to consider the title of the second book in the quartet, Still Life Stephanie and Marcus were still in their way but that was not true of Frederica and Daniel about whom stillness is almost the last word that would occur in any description of their characters.2 It sent me immediately back to reread the prologue where I rediscovered that Daniel was one of the guests at the celebration in the Portrait Gallery in 1968 long after the New Elizabethan Age furor is over Alexander Wedderburn, who wrote the 1953 verse play as a budding writer teaching at Blesford Ride, is also there, signaling perhaps that these two, and Frederica who invited them are of most interest in the novel.3 The implication that there s to the history of these characters made me want to continue immediately with the next book And that reminds me that I absolutely loved the way Byatt handled time in the novel, the constant references to what different characters would do or think in the future, often with a date attached, usually in the 1970s So you know the story goes on beyond the 1968 prologue That s not an end to the story AND that Byatt must have had the sequence fairly well planned out.4 It reminded me that I liked the third person omniscient narrator which since Henry James has been used less frequently in serious fiction I think Byatt uses it brilliantly and this ending paragraph is an example SHE knows what happens to them all and will tell you if you re patient The ostensible third person narrative showcases the author s extraordinary insight into so many different characters Before the novel is over, we know all the Potters well, and even have some insights into the extraordinarily bad father And 4 or 5 additional characters as well.There is a narrator, though, in this novel and one who gradually makes us realize that Frederica is the main character Some readers see Frederica as the narrator, and that is possible if one assumes a Frederica observing at some point in the future and if one assumes, as I do, that Frederica is capable of considerable detachment But I prefer to think it s Byatt s re incarnation of the 19th century 3rd person omniscient narrator who, as the novel goes on, focuses on the awkward, studious 17 year old ready to catapult herself into real life In addition, it s this narrator definitely female who provides the considerable humor in the novel.My argument that the narrative is essentially if not strictly third person centers around the intimate and convincing inside view of so many different characters What makes this a strong novel it seems to me is that Frederica is NOT Byatt thinly disguised, even though the family does seem quite similar but then it also seems similar to the Br ntes, a point of view some in the novel espouse In the real family she was the eldest and she even says that killing off Stephanie which happens in another novel seems, in retrospect, killing off herself But she also says that she was shy and uncommunicative as a child, with interests in science and that Marcus is in many ways a portrait of herself. I love revisiting Byatt s style, whether re reading or reading new works for the first time, and The Virgin in the Garden doesn t disappoint Her work is never light reading, but it is beautifully layered and textured, erudite without being overpowering, funny but never really light hearted it s language to lose yourself in.Frederica is the character who goes on to become central in the later books hence why this forms the first part of the Frederica quartet but here she s much part of an ensemble piece She s still a great character to read about Like Snape in the Harry Potter books, or Jane Austen s Emma, she s not someone whom you would particularly like were you ever to meet, but she s still fascinating to explore Most of the characters were similarly finely drawn fallible and curiously, eccentrically flawed without ever descending to the level of becoming mere grotesques.The only part of the novel which didn t really work for me were the long digressions involving Marcus and Simmonds The mystical aspects which they were interested in are not something which hold much attraction for me it also seemed curiously at odds with the rest of the book, where Byatt, for all her layers of literary erudition and allusions, is very down to earth Still a wonderful, wonderful novel, and I look forward to hunting down the rest of the quartet. I am not rating this novel since I am abandoning it at page 64 Nothing in me could face any of thisand, unfortunately I have the other three in this series on my shelf, so it amounts to ditching four books Still, life is short and this could not be less engaging to me.I LOVED Possession so much that I could not envision not liking something she had written Sadly, this backfired on me this time.Not putting the read dates in either, since I do not want it to count toward my yearly total. Let me get this out of the way A.S Byatt is a great writer Her prose sparkles with learned intelligence, and her characters are sketched so well they feel like living, breathing people She is unafraid to mix in literary allusions or linger for extended periods of time over one subject or another Normally, these are qualities I admire in a novelist, and in a different book this being my first Byatt , I can easily imagine these qualities working brilliantly in her favor However, file this one under not my cup of tea The story sits there, inert, and when it does move it does so slowly Most of her characters are thoroughly unlikeable, and, what s worst, largely uninteresting There is a subplot involving a mad teacher and his poor student as they conduct metaphysical experiments which left me unsettled and strongly tempted to skip ahead The whole thing feels like walking into an amusement park that s closed for the winter You look at the rides shuttered away and the boarded up teacups and think, Boy, this would be lovely If only I could be allowed to get on This will not be my last by Ms Byatt, but count me disappointed for now. I read this, some time in the mid 1990s, plowed my way through it, wishing it were Possession or Angels and Insects, which it wasn t The remaining pages got thinner and thinner, and I grew concerned about how things would possibly resolve.I read the final line, and threw the book across the room.In the mid aughts, I read this, grumbling aloud the whole way through by how familiar it all seemed, how angry it made me, thought I couldn t remember why.I read the final line.I threw the book across the room.I crossed the room, picked it up, and threw it again.I hereby promise to read other Byatt books in the future and not this one.Recommended for killing bugs on the wall. I read this one in Chicago and was rather impressed with the juggling of perspectives and the sweeping use of the Jubilee and Elizabeth I throughout Dovetailing erudion and emotional awkwardness made this a definite success. `READ DOWNLOAD ↙ The Virgin in the Garden ☠ From The Author Of Possession And Winner Of The Booker Prize, Two Enthralling Novels Which Follow The Fortunes Of A Yorkshire Schoolteacher S Children Stephanie, Marcus And The Awful Frederica From Coronation Year To The End Of The Fifties, Moving Between Yorkshire, Cambridge And London The Joys, Love And Pain Of Their Private Lives Mingle With Their Passionate Explorations Of Ideas, And Their Complex Response To The Time They Live In