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The Virgin In The Garden av A S Byatt
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The Virgin In The Garden (urspr publ 1978; utgåvan 1994)

av A S Byatt (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,601258,091 (3.67)103
In 1953, at an isolated boys' school in the Yorkshire moors, is a young teacher, Alexander Wedderburn, whose imagination had been captured by the Queen Elizabeth of Shakespeare and Spenser and who has written an historical verse play about her. Now, suddenly, his play has been taken up by a wealthy patron of the arts who envisions its production on the most magnificent scale, for it is to be the climax of a local festival honoring the new Queen Elizabeth. The novel holds us in suspense as it carries us to the great event of the play itself-in its Midsummer-Night's atmosphere of dream, of magic, of transforming revelry-that will alter forever the course of all the characters' lives.… (mer)
Medlem:Ashley_Hoss_820
Titel:The Virgin In The Garden
Författare:A S Byatt (Författare)
Info:Vintage (1994), Edition: New Ed, 576 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek, 1001s Owned
Betyg:
Taggar:Ingen/inga

Verkdetaljer

The Virgin in the Garden av A. S. Byatt (1978)

  1. 20
    A Whistling Woman av A. S. Byatt (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels feature Frederica Potter.
  2. 10
    Babel Tower av A. S. Byatt (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels feature Frederica Potter.
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» Se även 103 omnämnanden

engelska (23)  italienska (1)  tyska (1)  Alla språk (25)
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Lucky Jim meets Middlemarch? The Virgin in the Garden is a comedy of manners that skewers the pretensions of academia,

It is remarkable how much attention the various protagonists can give to the arcane details of their passions whether literature, "high art," metaphysics, religion (or, in most cases, the lack thereof), seduction (often as a pedagogical exercise).or even their own perceptions, while at the same time showing so few signs of situational or self awareness.
Each character takes us through lengthy digressions describing the minutiae of their individual passions in rants, inner monologues or pedantic discourse. Following these didactic wanderings is one of the charms of the book. But also, because there are so many and they go on so long, they can make the book exhausting. Remember this is a LONG book. 20+ hours on Audible!

The narrative arc follows a small Yorkshire academic community’s production of a play about the Virgin Queen Elizabeth as a celebration of that summer’s coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The production, part of a sensational pageant, is funded by a local wealthy patron who has recently bequeathed his estate to form a local university – all of which brings high visibility to the proceedings.

The author’s chirpy voice and wry amusement serves to hold our attention and hint that the book will somehow mirror a Midsummer Night’s Dream with a comedy of sexual mischief and errors surrounding play’s run in the estate gardens. And yes, after the extremely lengthy and circuitous path that gets us there, the midsummer night does offer the expected mischief that, alas, winds up being neither denouement nor the heart of the story.

Unexpectedly, Federica, who starts as an impossibly strong willed, narcissistic child, emerges as the only one who really wants to understand her place in the world and who exhibits any growth. All the other characters remain absorbed in their own obsessions or are too worried about discovering they have become cliches. Federica’s brother, Marcus, who also has an inquiring mind but has never found his own voice amidst all the din. He only wants to be left in a quiet peace.

Lacking parental guidance, role models or loving teachers (despite living in an academic milieu that propelled her to top marks on her A-levels prior to graduation) she must forge ahead on her own. Getting “deflowered” becomes her quest as a way to become an adult and see clearly. Starting as a ridiculous parody, Federica who noisily campaigns to become one of the stars of the summer’s play, also becomes the star of the book. As I found out after finishing this book, she even goes on to be the central character the subsequent three books that form the Federica quartet.

I still haven’t decided if I have the stamina to go on to the other books. ( )
  lfiering | Feb 11, 2021 |
This is (in part) another novel about a clever adolescent setting out into the unknown world of adult life, the first of four novels Byatt wrote, over a period of 25 years, about the character Frederica Potter. But it feels like a much more grown-up novel than The shadow of the sun and The game. It has the kind of scale and ambition that invites you to compare it with Middlemarch and South Riding — more especially since, like the latter, it's set in a lightly-fictionalised part of Yorkshire. Dozens of characters, four or five intertwined plot lines, lots of scenery, religion, politics, literary analysis, art-history, and all the rest.

The story is set in 1953, when Frederica is seventeen, but it's explicitly framed from the point of view of someone looking back from twenty years later, and thus able to comment with ironic distance on the short-lived "New Elizabethan" cultural enthusiasms of the Festival of Britain/Coronation period. (Oddly relevant again with the current British government trying to whip up enthusiasm for Mrs May's "Festival of Brexit"...). Most of the action is set around a fictional market town and a nearby small cathedral town in North Yorkshire — you could imagine them as Boroughbridge and Ripon, for instance, although Byatt is careful not to be too specific. And there are trips out to places like Knaresborough, Filey, Scarborough, Goathland and York to keep us in a Yorkshire mood.

At the centre of the plot is an outdoor production of Alexander Wedderburn's new verse-drama Astraea at a Yorkshire stately home, in which the schoolgirl Frederica has been chosen to play the young Elizabeth I. Frederica is madly in love with the romantic Alexander, but he's far too canny to get involved with a colleague's daughter, and it looks as though Frederica is going to have to make other arrangements to lose that which she has in common with the queen. Meanwhile, her elder sister Stephanie outrages their atheist/anarchist father by announcing that she intends to marry the curate, Daniel, and her younger brother Marcus becomes involved in dangerous-sounding telepathic experiments with the sinister Lucas, whose obvious derangement seems to have gone unobserved only because no-one expects biology teachers to be even slightly normal.

There's a huge amount of interesting stuff going on, with lots of characteristic Byatt themes: the irascible father, Bill, who feels trapped in the persona of "scary political ranter" that he has created for himself; the angry young man, Daniel, who has gone into the church with a great deal of energy but without any obvious religious conviction because it was the first way that offered itself to escape from his stultifying working-class childhood and narrow-minded mother; Stephanie, choosing family life with Daniel over the possibility of continuing her academic life; Marcus, subject to hyper-realistic creative visions and unsure what to do with them; and so on. And there's the interesting and detailed story of how the play comes together out of Alexander's gifted creative opportunism, the magus-like powers of Crowe, owner of the stately home and producer of the show, Frederica's fiery naivety, and the cynical pragmatism of the professional actors and director. And any number of parallels between Frederica, Elizabeth I, and the tiny flickering image of Elizabeth II on the TV screens. And a few Yorkshire in-jokes, like the way Lucas talks about tapping into the powerful "radiation" from the prehistoric cairns on Fylingdales Moor — which we know, but he doesn't, will become the site of a secretive high-powered Cold War radar installation in the 1960s.

I don't think the story manages to move outside the "1950s as seen from the 1970s" frame and bring the (Old) Elizabethans to life, though: we don't really get any closer to them than their written words as performed on stage. So that side of the book does tend to feel a bit more like academic criticism than a novel. But the imagining of the strange world of the early 1950s in England works very well. ( )
  thorold | Sep 9, 2020 |
The influence of Iris Murdoch on Byatt seems to be very apparent here. Virgin reads like an intellectual’s version of Murdoch’s The Bell, written 20 years earlier, but without as strong a plot and far more musing on literature. In fact, at times you could be forgiven for wondering if Byatt was competing for the world’s longest bibliography so many references does she include.

Things Mean A Lot wrote that…

A.S. Byatt’s writing – more so in her novels than in her short stories, I think – is very much cerebral.

For me, cerebral is the perfect word. There’s really only one character I can relate to in the entire novel and that’s the only one who has subsumed his intellect with his passions: Daniel the rector. Apart from him, I wanted to stuff the rest into a string bag and drown them in a well.

Perhaps everyone in 1950s Yorkshire really was an intellectual. But I think I’m about as convinced of that as I am with Sarah Water’s attempts to persuade me that every Victorian woman was a lesbian.

And this is where I think the novel has its greatest weakness. It’s almost like Byatt was trying too hard. There are some great scenes such as Daniel and Stephanie on the beach at Filey (and what a beach that is) or Frederica getting mauled on the moors, and you have a feeling that Byatt really can write. But she can’t help but return to the arts as her safe haven from describing the realities of life.

This for me was such a shame, not least because the arts are (or at least are supposed to be) entirely dependent on the realities of life for their expression. It’s understanding the realities of life that helps you understand art, not the other way around.

I had a feeling that Byatt wanted us to believe that the more well-read we were, the more we’d understand life. To me, that’s the cart before the horse and the main reason why Frederica at 16 shows an equal amount of folly as the middle-aged Alexander Wedderburn.

But there’s enough in here for those who like a serious novel to enjoy. Just keep going through the rough patches and you’ll get through it. It’s not a novel that’s aged well though, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the whole thing is just pretentious claptrap. ( )
  arukiyomi | Sep 2, 2020 |
I read this one in Chicago and was rather impressed with the juggling of perspectives and the sweeping use of the Jubilee and Elizabeth I throughout. Dovetailing erudion and emotional awkwardness made this a definite success. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I loved and was fascinated by Possession, particularly how the poems, letters and other writings from the earlier era are part of the narrative, and I feel a little let down that the The Virgin in the Garden didn't do something similar with the Elizabethans. Set mostly in 1953 and focused on the characters contemporary concerns, the Queen's coronation year, the play written by one of the characters and staged during the summer looks back to the first Elizabeth. I'm not sure I entirely followed what was going on with everybody in this book, but I think I'm sufficiently curious to read the next book about Frederica. ( )
  mari_reads | Sep 9, 2017 |
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The virgin in the garden is set in North Yorkshire in 1952-3, Coronation Year. The plot concerns the Festival production of a play about Elizabeth I, allowing consideration of that period and of the problems of modern poetic language. The underlying theme is of metamorphosis, birth and death. There is social history as a record of the 1950s; treatment of one character involves the problems of the graduate housewife.
tillagd av KayCliff | ändraThe Indexer, Hazel K. Bell (Nov 30, 1991)
 

» Lägg till fler författare (15 möjliga)

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In 1952 history took a grip on the world of Alexander Wedderburn's imagination.
She had invited Alexander, whether on the spur of the moment or with malice aforethought he did not know, to come and hear Flora Robson do Queen Elizabeth at the National Portrait Gallery. (Prologue)
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Susan darted to the cycle shed and eased her machine out of its concrete rut. Miss Potter [Stephanie] rode past, pedalling firmly, flowing gold and green. Susan mounted, shoved, swayed, set off. Stephanie descended into the declivity of the path that crossed the crater, in bumps and starts, braking. Into the crater from the other side, ponderously manoeuvring, came a large black figure on a massive black bicycle. As though, Stephanie thought, also braking, he had simply risen up from the sooty laurels the other side of the crater. ... He came heavily on, bore down on Miss Potter in a rut, clashed their handlebars, like horned beasts engaging each other. ... Stephanie hopped a few steps. entangled, caught her calf painfully on the edge of a pedal, stopped to rub it. Susan saw a long oily streak on the smooth stocking. ... Daniel, head down, manipulated handlebars and interlocked brakeblocks with ferocity. ... He had planned the encounter with his usual care ... he ground metal and rubber.
Alexander thought, surveying Thomas Cromwell and the mock-soldiers, about the nature of modern parody. It seemed to him who did not understand or like it, undirected and aimless: they imitated anything and everything out of an unmanageable combination of aesthetic curiosity, mocking destructiveness and affectionate nostalgia, the desire to be anything and anywhere other than here and now. Did these soldiers loathe or secretly desire warfare? Or did they not know? Was it all a considered Astatement@, as the painter would have said, about accommodated and unaccommodated man? Or was it just a hysterical continuation of childhood dressing-up?
He was aiming at a vigorous realism, and had great trouble with a natural warp in the work towards pastiche and parody.
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In 1953, at an isolated boys' school in the Yorkshire moors, is a young teacher, Alexander Wedderburn, whose imagination had been captured by the Queen Elizabeth of Shakespeare and Spenser and who has written an historical verse play about her. Now, suddenly, his play has been taken up by a wealthy patron of the arts who envisions its production on the most magnificent scale, for it is to be the climax of a local festival honoring the new Queen Elizabeth. The novel holds us in suspense as it carries us to the great event of the play itself-in its Midsummer-Night's atmosphere of dream, of magic, of transforming revelry-that will alter forever the course of all the characters' lives.

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