This book was very well written, and the characters were mostly complex and interesting. I enjoyed reading it for the most part. My problem was that every chapter or so, Byatt would take a break from the story to give a history lesson. Yes, the characters and narrative were often influenced by the events going on in the world, but not by much. I would have preferred to get the historical context in a way more natural to the story. I usually found myself just skimming through the history lesson pages.