In The Escape (Cape), Thirlwellâ€™s second novel following the critically acclaimed Politics, 78-year-old Haffner â€“ charming, morally dubious, egotistical, Jewish â€“ is staying in a small town in the Alps at the end of the 20th century. He is seeking a cure, redress, more women (and ignoring the will of his wife). Through the story of his couplings and uncouplings, questions emerge: how can you ever desert your past, your family, your history? How do you remain a libertine? Byattâ€™s The Childrenâ€™s Book (Chatto & Windus) is the absorbing story of the close of what has been called the Edwardian summer: the deceptively languid, blissful period that ended with the cataclysmic destruction of World War I. The novel centres around Olive Wellwood, a fairy tale writer, and her circle, and moves between generations following the children who must choose whether to adopt the roles expected of them or stand up to their parentsâ€™ â€œporcelain socialismâ€. Byatt and Thirlwell both talk about their work and discuss European literature and the art of the novel.