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A.S. Byatt
at the
complete review:

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Name: Antonia Susan BYATT
Nationality: GB
Born: 24 August 1936
Died: 16 November 2023
Awards: Booker Prize, 1990
Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1999

  • B.A., Newnham College, Cambridge University
  • Graduate study at Bryn Mawr College and Somerville College, Oxford
  • Fellow of University College, London

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Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.
Dates given are of first publication.

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What others have to
say about
A.S. Byatt:

  • "Byatt writes like a novelist who believes that her work really can matter that deeply, and more often than not, she's right." - Laura Miller, Salon (24/5/1996)

  • "A. S. Byatt is as interested in the way things look in a short story as in what happens. Colour, shape, texture, shine and the very chemical composition of substances are lovingly detailed in her work. At times, her descriptions are as vivid and etched as illustrations from a book of fairy tales." - Katy Emck, Times Literary Supplement (13/11/1998)

  • "Chapter Seventeen of Adam Bede by George Eliot might reasonably be regarded as the text on which all A. S. Byatt's literary works have been the commentary. It is entitled "In Which The Story Pauses A Little", and is an excursus on the desirability of constraining the literary imagination by adherence to what is simply true. (...) Her fictions are perhaps most notable for their descriptive precision; at least, this is the impression given by her pedantically coloured adjectives. In fact, it is precision of a peculiar kind. In the attempt to eschew expressiveness for "the exact truth", Byatt denies her language the elements of personal distortion that are the basis of a writer's style." - Hal Jensen, Times Literary Supplement (2/6/2000)

  • "A.S. Byatt is a clever writer who has often been accused of being too clever. Whether for her own good or for ours is a moot point, and too frequently her detractors have confused cleverness with intelligence, or more particularly erudition. Her novels (...) are fraught with complicated ideas, networks of references and endlessly proliferating interrelated symbols and images." - Alex Clark, The Guardian (3/6/2000)

  • "A. S. Byatt may no longer teach Literature (as she did at University College London between 1972 and 1984), but she is one of the foremost professors of her subject; her novels and stories constitute, among other things, but perhaps above all, a series of theses on aesthetics, experimental research papers on language and artistic form." - Hal Jensen, Times Literary Supplement (26/10/2000)

  • "I've always admired writers whose reach exceeds their grasp, and the prodigiously gifted British novelist Antonia Susan Byatt is certainly one of these. She writes in the tradition of Sterne and Lawrence, artists who create more reality in their pages than they sometimes can fully control, rather than the repressed knitters and natterers of British fiction such as Jane Austen and her offspring." - Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle (28/1/2001)

  • "Entering a novel by A.S. Byatt is like going to a party of very smart people. The initial thrill of mingling with such brilliance is tempered by the nagging sense of one's relative stupidity." - Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor (1/2/2001)

  • "Byatts persönliche Signatur -- und zugleich Markenzeichen der zeitgenössischen Erzählliteratur -- ist die intime Verquickung von Realbiographie und Fiktion (.....) Dazu kommen, als charakteristische Byatt-Zutaten, das detektivische und das erotische Element." - Werner von Koppenfels, Neue Zürcher Zeitung (9/10/2001)

  • "It is an axiom that any book labelled a "novel of ideas" should be thrown immediately into the nearest dustbin. One of Byatt's greatest achievements, here and elsewhere in her work, has been to redefine that label and our expectations of it. Weighed down with intellectual baggage, their creator wildly semaphoring from her nearby observation post, cross-disciplinary shellfire exploding above their heads, her characters stagger on across the postwar battlefield to a place where, ultimately and successfully, they can be themselves." - D.J.Taylor, New Statesman (26/8/2002)

  • "In Byatt's fiction the collision between European Christianity and scientific understanding, the ensuing religious recession and the need to reckon its moral implications are less a backdrop for a brilliant postmodern picnic than an overwhelming flood of inheritance. This is not surprising in someone responsive to Iris Murdoch. But it is not always apparent." - Ruth Scurr, Times Literary Supplement (30/8/2002)

  • "Byatt is one of the most brilliant minds and speakers of our generation. She is a galvanising literary critic and a cultural commentator of the highest order. My qualm in reading the whole quartet lay in my query: are talkers all we have to talk about in the modern novel ? Byatt eschews realism as archaic; she sidelines the human heart. But paradoxically, her writing is most powerful when it deviates from her agenda." - Stevie Davies, The Independent (7/9/2002)

  • "The comparison between George Eliot's writing and that of Byatt has been frequently and justly made. Byatt's four novels [the Potter quartet] are complex, lively, muscular, moral and rather masculine books whose celebration of cleverness and strong feeling is intensely invigorating." - Jane Shilling, Evening Standard (9/9/2002)

  • "The old, and possibly apocryphal, admonition to "write what you know" never really accounted for the novelist who knows everything. While A.S. Byatt may not actually know everything, it sometimes seems that way. At the very least she's interested in it all -- literary criticism, history, politics, education, biology, painting, genetics, religion, law, physics." - Laura Miller, Salon (5/12/2002)

  • "Fans of A.S. Byatt's fiction can be divided into two groups: Those who cannot understand her novels and those who lie." - Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor (19/12/2002)

  • "Byatt is credited with being a novelist of ideas, but really she is a melodramatic pedant. (...) Byatt prefers wiggly surfaces to sure depths. She depends on her readers' exhaustion, or insecurity, to claim Eliot's mantle." - Lorraine Adams, The New Republic (17/11/2003)

  • "As Byatt's career progresses, storytelling appears more than ever a matter of life and death for her, inseparable from the life of the body, rites of passage and an awareness of mortality." - Samantha Matthews, Times Literary Supplement (31/10/2003)

  • "In a dumbed-down world, what a pleasure it is to dive into the dense, allusive, uncompromisingly erudite novels of A.S. Byatt. Ms. Byatt has inherited Iris Murdoch's mantle as England's pre-eminent novelist of ideas, but her books are richer and more satisfying than Murdoch's, and less inclined to preciosity and abstraction. Ms. Byatt might more profitably be compared with the great Victorians in whose work she has immersed herself." - Brooke Allen, Wall Street Journal (3/10/2009)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

  • Consistently writes impressive, creative fictions
  • Broad literary and scientific interests, effectively used in the texts
  • Bridges Victorian and contemporary writing

  • Occasionally arguably hyper-intellectual and -literary
  • Can try reader's patience
  • Occasionally tries too much, stuffing too many characters and ideas in the novels without following them closely enough

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the complete review's Opinion

     A.S.Byatt is both a novelist of serious ideas as well as a true story-teller. From short stories to weighty, sweeping novels of ideas (and some serious non-fiction on literary subjects) she's written a nice variety of books.
     Byatt nicely integrates science and literature into her fictions, never shying away from complex ideas -- sometimes to the chagrin of her readers.
     She writes well, and shows remarkable range, having been accused of everything from being too Victorian to post-modern.
     Always worthwhile, Byatt is one of the most significant British writers of her time.

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A.S.Byatt: A.S. Byatt's books at the complete review: See also:
  • Index of other Author Pages at the complete review
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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