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  • The Virgin in the Garden

  • Frederica Potter, Book 1
  • By: A. S. Byatt
  • Narrated by: Sophie Aldred
  • Length: 21 hrs
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)

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Summary

In Yorkshire, the Potter family are preparing to celebrate Elizabeth II’s arrival on the throne. Its three youngest members, however, are preoccupied with other matters. Stephanie has grown tired of their overbearing father and resolves to marry the local curate. Anxious teenager Marcus gains a new teacher and suffers increasingly disturbing visions. Then there is Frederica. On the brink of adulthood, a love affair with a young playwright may offer the freedom she desperately desires.

The first Frederica Potter Novel.

©1994 A. S. Byatt (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

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Long but rewarding listen

It took me months to get through this, almost as long as the period spanned by the events of the book; by the end I had a real sense of companionship with the characters. It’s a densely-written novel, which follows the interleaved stories of the three Potter siblings, each of whom seeks a different escape from a home life dominated by their opinionated and anger-prone father. It’s also a retrospective portrait of England in 1953, setting the coronation year in context and dropping knowing hints as to the future.
The narrator is in her element with characterisation and dialogue (often very funny) - I ended up feeling surprisingly sympathetic towards the unlikable Frederica Potter, and exasperated with the charming but cowardly Alexander. The codependence that develops between Marcus Potter and the Lucas Simmonds is also convincingly portrayed. In contrast I found it difficult to maintain concentration through the many long descriptive passages, often heavy with literary and classical references. Definitely a Learned book.