I've recently finished reading A S Byatt's The Children's Book(interview/review here). I have to admit this is the first Byatt I've read, although I did get about a third of the way through a library copy of Possession, before it had to be returned, and I didn't for a variety of reasons reserve it again. However, The Children's Book is one of the most amazing, absorbing and engrossing reads I've experienced. The cast of characters seems huge but in fact is a few families, the timescale seems immense but is in reality that period at the end of the 19th century, ending just after the First World War, and the setting is basically London, Kent and later Germany in the beginning of the 1900's..I found the references to the art of that period easy to visualise, as I'd watched the recent TV programmes on Art Nouveau, called Sex and Sensibility, presented by Stephen Smith, which was both very interesting and informative. Unfortunately I read this on my Kindle, so missed having the beautiful cover to look at whenever I closed the book, as it would have added to my enjoyment. I think the hugeness of this book comes from the range of emotions described and felt by both characters in. the story and the reader, as well as from the range of events and characters.
Another fairly long read was Vere Hodgson's wartime diaries, Few Eggs and No Oranges, published by Persephone Books. Social history at its best, as Vere describes the Blitz, doodle-bugs, V1 and 2 rockets and other bombs that fell on London and elsewhere in the country from 1940 to 1945. She also describes the difficulties of getting food as well as household necessities such as saucepans, kettles and sheets, when setting up her own flatlet. It brought back memories of my grandmother's stories of the Second World War. She lived on the Isle of Wight and though there was some bombing there, they were under the flight path of bombers aiming for Southampton and Portsmouth, both badly damaged during that time.