There is so much happening in this story that it will take me days to process. Overall I loved it - my take from seeing other reviews is that you either do love it or hate it. It is a fantastical journey into the history and development of the Fabian socialist movement and Arts and Crafts era. There is much to ponder and enjoy.
Although it is packed with details and characters, I for one think all the detail is necessary to carry out the story well.
The novel details the lives of two families: the Wellwoods and the Fludds. The Wellwoods are headed by Olive and Humphrey, both idealists and not strongly connected to reality. Their life together appears to be the perfect combination of beautiful children, a wonderful home and a bohemian lifestyle. Olive writes children's stories for the public and customizes personal stories for each of her seven children. Humphrey also is a writer and lecturer after quitting his job at a bank to preserve his integrity (the one and only time it is shown). The novel begins with Olive on a research jaunt to a museum discovering a runaway boy and transporting him back to their estate. As the reader learns more about this family, the fairy tales conceived by Olive hide and detract from horrible parenting, tragic secrets and lies that flow through the household.
The Fludds are a highly dysfunctional family headed by an artistically but morally challenged potter. Benedict Fludd, his wife and daughters were extremely odd - this family also carries deep and disturbing secrets.
Be warned - there is incest and some heartbreaking moments throughout. I became attached to many of the characters which can be a good and bad thing.
One of the many things that I did not know before reading this book was that many writers of children's books have had their own children lead unhappy lives, many of which ended in suicide. Very ironic that individuals whose job it is to weave beautiful stories often cannot translate that happiness into their own homes.