First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
live Wellwood is a famous writer, interviewed with her children gathered at her knee. For each of them she writes a separate private book, bound in different colours and placed on a shelf. In their rambling house near Romney Marsh they play in a storybook world – but their lives, and those of their rich cousins, children of a city stockbroker, and their friends, the son and daughter of a curator at the new Victoria and Albert Museum, are already inscribed with mystery. Each family carries its own secrets.
Into their world comes a young stranger, a working-class boy from the potteries, drawn by the beauty of the Museum’s treasures. And in midsummer a German puppeteer arrives, bringing dark dramas. The world seems full of promise but the calm is already rocked by political differences, by Fabian arguments about class and free love, by the idealism of anarchists from Russia and Germany. The sons rebel against their parents’ plans; the girls dream of independent futures, becoming doctors or fighting for the vote.
This vivid, rich and moving saga is played out against the great, rippling tides of the day, taking us from the Kent marshes to Paris and Munich, and the trenches of the Somme. Born at the end of the Victorian era, growing up in the golden summers of Edwardian times, a whole generation grew up unaware of the darkness ahead. In their innocence, they were betrayed unintentionally by the adults who loved them. In a profound sense, this novel is indeed the children’s book.
And done! The weekend is waving as another work week draws to a close. I hope that you are ending or have ended the week on a high note. However, if the week hasn’t gone your way, I hope you get your mojos back during the weekends. I hope you get to rest, relax, reflect, and rejuvenate your manna. I hope you have fun this weekend and that you spend it wisely. For me, the weekend will be spent playing badminton, working out, reading books, and writing book reviews. This has become my routine in the past few weeks. While I have become more active lately, the pandemic still lingers at the back of my mind, especially with WHO’s warning of a looming surge that will happen in two months. I know most of us are already exasperated but a lot still remains uncertain. With the virus still lingering, I hope that you are all doing well, in body, mind, and spirit.
Before I can officially close the work week, I am posting a new First Impression Friday update. In March, my reading motif was literary works written by female writers in commemoration of the celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month. This reading journey was brimming with interesting and insightful books. Unfortunately, I don’t have any plans lined up yet for April. Because I had a challenging time picking out which book to read next, I have been reading works of female writers, making April effectively an extension of my March reading journey. I have also been alternating new-to-me writers and not-so-new-to-me writers. Earlier in the day, I completed my first novel by Nobel Laureate in Literature Herta Müller, The Hunger Angel. Immediately after reading The Hunger Angel, I started reading A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book.
Interestingly, I have been reading books with the word “book” on the title and The Children’s Book is already my fourth this year; prior to 2022, I only read about three books under the same category. I actually obtained my copy of The Children’s Book last month but because it has been four years since I read my first A.S. Byatt novel, Possession, I decided to make it my next literary stop over the other books I have previously acquired. I loved the Booker Prize-winning Possession which made me look forward to reading more of Byatt’s works. The Children’s Book does sound like a very interesting story. Moreover, it comes in highly recommended. Both books were listed as part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.
As I have mentioned, I have just started reading the book. I have completed two chapters so far but these chapters were enough to give me a glimpse of the story. At the start, I was introduced to two boys in their mid-teens: Julian Cain and Tom Wellwood. The year was 1895. Julian and Tom have never met before until Tom’s mother, Olive, approached Julian’s father, Major Prosper Cain, to seek his assistance on a story that she wanted to write. Olive was the author of “a great many tales, for children and adult” and is also an “authority on British Fairy Lore.” The Cain patriarch, on the other hand, was a Special Keeper of Precious Metals for the Prince Consort Gallery.
As the two boys were touring the Gallery, they encountered Philip Warren. Philip was of their age and has been living in the museum, sleeping in the crypts undetected until he caught Julian’s attention. While being interrogated by the children’s parents, we learn more about Philip. He ran away from Burslem and used to work in the potteries. He has several siblings but their father has already passed away, along with some of his siblings. He didn’t mind sleeping in the crypt, in the company of bones as the place provided him the solitude he was yearning for. He was also talented: he was a good drawer who had keen attention to detail. In awe, Olivia invited Philip to their countryside home, Todefright, to celebrate Midsummer Eve along with the rest of her family. With no other recourse, Philip agreed and it was there that he met the rest of the Wellwood children.
Staying true to its title, the story involved a lot of children. But what intrigues me is the personalities of these children. Philip, understandably, was more reserved. Dorothy was, I surmise, his equal, the one who can read his thoughts. Julian, although not yet at the party, was the one who was most sure of himself. His assured daunted Tom. The rest of the children I still have to gain a psychological profile of, portraits that I expect to be painted as the story moves forward. The next question that comes to mind is how will these children’s individual stories pan out. On top of the children, I am also looking at gaining an understanding of the adults. I am intrigued by the role Olivia’s sister, Violet Grimwith, plays in Philip’s, and consequently, the children’s coming-of-age.
Shortlisted for the 2009 Booker Prize, The Children’s Books is a hefty read with over 600 pages that are waiting to be unraveled. And there is a lot I look forward to in the book. How about you fellow reader? What book are you digging into the weekend? I hope you are enjoying it. For now, happy reading, and have a happy weekend!