Title: A Whistling Woman (Signed First Edition)
Publisher: New York: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: 2002
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: 1st Edition.
Cloth-backed paper over boards; photo-illustrated dust jacket; pp. 429. First American edition stated. Inscribed by Byatt on the title-page. Book and jacket are without flaw. Bookseller Inventory # 7189
Synopsis: This electrifying new novel forms the triumphant conclusion to the great ?Frederica quartet? depicting the forces in English life from the early 50s to 1970.
While Frederica -- the spirited heroine of Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, and Babel Tower -- falls almost by accident into a career in television in London, tumultuous events in her home county of Yorkshire threaten to change her life and those of the people she loves. In the late 1960s the world begins to split. Near the university, where the scientists Luk and Jacqueline are studying snails and neurons and the working of the brain, an ?anti-university? springs up. On the high moors nearby, a gentle therapeutic community is taken over by a turbulent, charismatic leader. Visions of blood and flames, of mirrors and doubles, share the refracting energy of Frederica?s mosaic-like television shows. The languages of religion, myth and fairy-tale overlap with the terms of science and the new computer age. Darkness and light are in perpetual tension and the meaning of love itself seems to vanish; people flounder, often comically, to find their true sexual, intellectual and emotional identity.
The focus of these novels first widened from the old nuclear family to the experimental group and now narrows again to reveal the different, modern patterns of intimacy which emerged in these years. Through her wayward, lovingly drawn characters and breath-taking twists of plot, Byatt illuminates the effervescence of the 1960s -- both its excitements and its dangers -- as no one has done before. A Whistling Woman is the ultimate novel of ideas made flesh -- gloriously sensual, sexy and scary, bursting with ideas, contradictions, scientific discoveries, ethical conflicts, sly humour and wonderful humanity.
Review: With A Whistling Woman, AS Byatt reaches the fourth and final instalment in her popular sequence of novels, after The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life and Babel Tower. It is now the summer of 1968. Newly divorced Frederica is living with Agatha and their children while pursuing a somewhat desultory affair with John Ottakar. But everything changes when John accepts a post at the University of North Yorkshire, while Frederica stumbles into a new career on television … A Whistling Woman is a busy, energetic novel, juggling its various plot strands--experimental scientists, psychiatric patients with nasty secrets, the upper echelons of university life--with the slick skill of a TV soap. Characters, familiar and new, are evoked with Byatt's customary easy vividness, but this time the exuberance is tempered by a noticeable sourness. One gets the distinct sense throughout the novel that by 1968 British society as we know it has started to spiral downhill. For Frederica, whereas "the carpet of the 50s was woven of many colours, in fine threads", the sixties were "like a fishing-net woven horribly loose and slack with only the odd very bright plastic object caught in its meshes, whilst everything else had rushed and flowed through, back into the undifferentiated ocean". Echoing Frederica's disillusion, Byatt's satire is more than usually acerbic towards various targets--in particular in her account of the newly politicised academy (which seems more a parody of 80s political correctness than of 60s activism). But for those dying to know what life brings to Frederica, then A Whistling Woman will be a welcome end to the years of waiting.-- Alan Stewart
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