Byatt’s most recent novel to date, The Children’s Book (2009), recapitulates many of the concerns of her earlier fiction and refines some of the narrative strategies and metafictional elements deployed in previous works. The book marks a return to the historical novel, the genre that had brought the author worldwide recognition with Possession and, like the former novel, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize (without, however, winning it). It features an author of fairy tales for children as one of the central characters, giving Byatt the opportunity for metafictional forays into the relationship between fantasy fiction and its material sources, as well as a vehicle for the interpolation of original stories within the main narrative, in the manner of Possession’s poetry and tales and, of course, of Byatt’s own collections, particularly The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye and Elementals. The scope of the novel is as ambitious as that of the Tetralogy, with numerous locations, dozens of variously important characters, a range of minutely detailed artistic and political enterprises from which analogies can be drawn to the main action and the narrative form, and a span of two decades, all matching the characteristics of the Frederica novels, but in one volume.
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