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October 2009

September 2009

The Children's Book

A.S.Byatt-The Children's Book

Run, don't walk, to pick up a copy of A.S. Byatt's latest, The Children's Book, which is the very best thing that Byatt has written since her Booker-winning novel Possession. I've been wanting to rave about this book for months (the English edition came out in May), and finally the American release date for The Children's Book is at hand.

Where Possession looked at the lives of writers and artists in Victorian England, The Children's Book examines the lives of writers, artists, puppeteers and political thinkers in the Edwardian era, and is richly laced (like the previous book) with themes drawn from myth and fairy tales. The central character, Olive Wellwood,


is not a little inspired by the Edwardian writer E. Nesbit -- who was as famous in her day for her Fabian politics, unconventional household, and passionate friendships with the likes of George Bernard Shaw as she was for her popular children's books (The Railway Children, The Five Children and It, etc.). If you're familiar with this period of British literary history, one of the keen pleasures of reading Byatt's novel is guessing the real-life influences behind each character...but even if you're not, it's a splendid read, with a gripping story, a large and colorful cast, and magical elements laced throughout.

As a follow-up book, I highly recommend Julia Brigg's biography, Edith Nesbit: A Woman of Passion. Truth may not always be stranger than fiction -- but in this case it's every bit as fascinating.

The Tilly Report, Week Two


PuppyYoung Tilly is growing by leaps and bounds. She's now too big for the Riverfords Organic Vegetables box that was a roomy bed for her just a week ago.

In the photo to the right, she helps me take a break from painting (hence the speckled trousers), and decides that living in a house with bookworms has its advantages at nap-time.

The book is Maria Tatar's Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood, which I highly recommend.

Other books I've read and loved recently can be found in "On the Shelf" column to the right.

Presenting a new member of the family

Tilly in Sept 2009

Tilly, who is just eight weeks old, comes from a small farm in north Devon. Here she is with Howard on her first day here at Bumblehill. I haven't had a dog before this wee girl, and I expect our lives are about to change....

Even before Tilly's arrival it's been a lively month around here. Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman came to town for a much-too-short period of time (you can read about their English & Welsh adventures by following the links to their respective blogs); Toby Froud got married (to a truly lovely lady); Amal El-Mohtar and Jessica Wick of Goblin Fruit are currently staying just down the street; and I want to send out a big "happy birthday" across the fields today to Rima Staines.

As for me, I've been down with a tummy bug, but I'm bouncing back again....healing with Puppy Love.

Tilly's first day at Bumblehill


I'm reading Brian Boyd's On the Origins of Stories, and thinking (once again) about the storytelling process. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how a good songwriter can evoke, in the space of a few minutes, stories with the kind of emotional power that I'd require a whole novel, or at least a short story, to create. The Suzanne Vega song above is a case in point, as is Tracy Chapman's heartbreaking classic, Fast Car (which never fails to remind me of my mother).