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A Whistling Woman
by A.S. Byatt
ISBN 0679776907 / 9780679776901 / 0-679-77690-7
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Anyone who has followed the adventures of Frederica and her friends from The Virgin in the Garden through Still Life and Babel Tower will find it impossible to resist A Whistling Woman, the conclusion of A.S. Byatt's masterful quartet on postwar English life and manners. The first book in the series was set in the early 1950s, and A Whistling Woman carries the story through the end of the 1960s. While it lives up to the sweep and gravitas of the earlier volumes, it is slow going at the start, crowded with characters and ideas, not all of which are equally compelling. University politics, feminism, television, psychology, the advent of mass culture, and the emerging science of neurobiology each figure large, although Byatt's emphasis is on the old trio of love, madness, and religion. These novels cover much of the same ground as her sister Margaret Drabble did in The Radiant Way and elsewhere, but have more in common with the work of Iris Murdoch, whose novels showed a similar sympathy for--and fascination with--unreasoned acts of passion. A Whistling Woman is a brilliant evocation of the intellectual and social life of 1960s Britain, with allowance for the occasional grisly murder. --Regina Marler [via]