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A.S. Byatt - The Game Legolas Send a noteboard - 07/02/2011 10:01:26 PM
Those among you who have paid attention to my posts over the last year or two will have noticed that I have a rather strong liking for the works of the celebrated British novelist A.S. Byatt. Her books Possession and The Children's Book are, safe to say, contemporary classics, but I for one have enjoyed every single Byatt book I've read, though - naturally - some more than others.

This time, though, I started reading a book that was decades older than her most famous books (Possession is from 1990 and The Children's Book from 2009) - The Game is her second novel, published in 1967. So it would've been natural enough for this book to be less polished and well-written than her later works; then again, some novelists write their best work at a young age. Having now read it, I would be inclined to say it is indeed somewhat less polished, but I'm not sure if it's noticeable enough that I would have said so without any knowledge of when each book was published.

Anyway, let's get to the book. The Game is a fairly short novel about two sisters in their forties, Cassandra and Julia, and the man they both had feelings for as adolescents, Simon. At first sight, sisters fighting over a man and falling out over him may seem normal enough, but the relationship between Cassandra and Julia is far from normal. The complex love-hate relationship they had as teenagers, expressed among other things in their idiosyncratic "Game" that gives the novel its name, has left them both, in different ways, emotionally stunted and stuck dealing with unprocessed issues. Julia is a successful novelist with a family (I was rather amused by her having a Norwegian husband named Thor, if Camilla reads this :P, but Thor is nothing like Tor, from what I can tell), Cassandra is an Oxford professor and not-that-old spinster, but while Julia seems to fit better into the common expectations of society, she definitely has issues of her own. When Simon returns from his televised adventures as a snake expert traveling through the Amazon jungle, and meets both women again after an absence of nigh enough twenty years, some of the slumbering issues inevitably rise up again.

This novel has all of the typical Byatt elements that one finds in nearly all of her novels to greater or lesser degrees: a focus on the arts (literature and television in this case), academia, science and religion, and a subtle, reflective investigation of human relationships of all kinds - romantic, family, friendship. I freely admit that each of her books has had (short) sections that I felt were going rather above my head, be it the artistic talk or the philosophical takes on certain aspects of relationships, and The Game is no exception; the three protagonists are more dysfunctional than most of Byatt's characters, and have rather particular worldviews. They are, as always, credibly written and well-fleshed out, but not always very easy to sympathize and identify with.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book quite a bit - not as much as some of Byatt's books, but it's not her worst that I've read either. It is however less accessible than most, I think, so I would not recommend it as a first introduction to Byatt. But those who have enjoyed some of her other novels may certainly be interested in this book as well.
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A.S. Byatt - The Game - 07/02/2011 10:01:26 PM 7698 Views
Again, I haven't read it. - 08/02/2011 04:09:46 PM 1322 Views
Nope, can't say I have. *NM* - 08/02/2011 06:12:33 PM 709 Views
Ah - 08/02/2011 06:14:17 PM 1310 Views
Yes. - 08/02/2011 06:21:45 PM 1317 Views
Re: Yes. - 08/02/2011 06:23:42 PM 1240 Views
Re: Yes. - 08/02/2011 07:08:26 PM 1323 Views
Re: Yes. - 08/02/2011 07:11:47 PM 1389 Views

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