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A.S. Byatt. Random, $25.95 (544p) ISBN 0-679-75881-X
One does not usually associate Byatt, who has often worked on a small--even miniature--scale, with the notion of an epic novel; but that, in terms of scope and ambition, is just what she has created here. It is an invigorating spectacle; as well as a welcome reminder of how a fine novelist can illuminate a whole era in ways not even the most skilled social historian can.
Set in England in the mid-1960s, the novel focuses on Frederica, an attractive, highly intelligent and bookish young woman who cut a swath at Cambridge University, then married Nigel Reiver, a well-to-do member of the landed gentry with a country …