Byatt’s The Children’s Book. There is much to say. I can’t, yet. I finished it on Saturday and I couldn’t even look at another book on Sunday. Yesterday I picked up something I’ve already read: Delderfield’s To Serve Them All My Days. It begins at the end of World War I (which is where the Byatt ends) with a shell-shocked Welsh soldier taking a teaching post at a remote school for boys in North Devon. I think I felt a little shell-shocked myself after Byatt’s dark epic and, like David Powlett-Jones, needed a dose of bracing upland air and boyish pranks to pull me out of my head.
There’s a lesson for me here, and it’s that making reading lists, while a deeply satisfying activity, has, for me, practically nothing to do with the actual reading of books. Much of the time, perhaps most of the time, the book I have just finished reading selects its successor.
Between The Children’s Book (which begins in 1895, in the last creaky years of Victoria’s reign) and The Diamond Age, which I flipped through the other day, looking for (and not finding) a particularly iPad-ish quote for Friday’s little post (because is it just me, or is the iPad a device within spitting distance of the Young Lady’s Primer?), I have found myself hankering after a biography of Queen Victoria. Serendipitously, today Colleen teases a novel (not bio) called, deliciously, Prisoners in the Palace: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance about How Princess Victoria Became Queen with the Help of a Maid, a Newspaperman, and a Scoundrel. According to the blurb at Powell’s, it was “meticulously based on newly discovered information” by historian Michaela Maccoll. Sounds promising, no?