Skip to main content

Babel Tower

About the Book

Babel Tower

A. S. Byatt's Babel Tower is a thought-provoking, deeply intelligent novel of ideas. It is 1964, and Frederica, a fiercely intellectual young woman, realizes that her marriage has become a prison. Her husband, Nigel Reiver, is determinedly philistine, resentful of her brain and her interests outside the home; Frederica's slightest efforts at independence provoke him to increasingly violent behavior. Eventually she must flee from their home in the middle of the night, taking their young son, Leo, with her. Frederica moves to London, begins a teaching job, and files for divorce. Interwoven with this story is a parallel one, Babbletower, a fable about an idealistic group of men and women who left Paris during the Terror to found a utopian community in the countryside. But in isolation from the larger society, Culvert, the group's leader, becomes more and more tyrannical in his program of pushing "freedom" to ever newer and more frightening limits.

The novel reaches its climax with two trials that mirror the upheavals of the day: Frederica's bitter, public divorce and the prosecution of Babbletower's author and publisher on obscenity charges. In her fascinating and complex narrative, Byatt raises a seemingly infinite number of questions: about language and thought, freedom and captivity, the romantic point of view, and the condition of women. She reminds us that there are no absolute answers; life consists of a series of complex and reverberating choices.

Babel Tower
by A.S. Byatt

  • Publication Date: June 24, 1997
  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0679736808
  • ISBN-13: 9780679736806