Frederica Potter, 'doomed to be intelligent', plunges into Cambridge University life greedy for knowledge, sex and love. In Yorkshire her sister Stephanie has abandoned academe for the cosy frustration of the family. Alexander Wedderburn, now in London, struggles to make a play about Van Gogh, whose art and tragic life give the novel its central leitmotiv.
In this sequel to her much praised The Virgin in the Garden, and the second in a magnificent quartet, A. S. Byatt illuminates the inevitable conflicts between ambition and domesticity, confinement and self-fulfillment, while providing a subtle yet incisive observation of the intellectual and cultural life in England during the 1950s.
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