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Babel Tower

Posted on

Babel Tower

Current Status:
In Season
A.S. Byatt

We gave it an A

Educated Frederica marries a country gent who becomes abusive; she escapes to London, her small son in tow, to reestablish her neglected literary life; then she fights breathtakingly sexist divorce proceedings. If this story of a woman finding liberation in swinging ’60s England sounds somewhat predictable, or simplistically feminist, think again. In this dazzling epic, A.S. Byatt (who won the Booker Prize for Possession) employs the entire Day-Glo palette of a decade grappling with unprecedented freedom. Various subplots — like the one about a communal utopia-turned-sadomasochistic nightmare — explore the limits of ”free love”; artistic freedom is examined when a friend of Frederica’s is charged with obscenity. Most amazing is that Babel Tower takes entertaining advantage of the myriad ”languages,” or genres, it employs — from fantasy to eroticism to courtroom drama — while never sacrificing its nuanced intellectual exactitude. Like a marvelous tapestry, Byatt has woven together the meaningful dialogues of an era, with all their flaws and beauty. A