I read Byatt's Possession way back when it was published, a billion years ago. That one won the Booker Prize, I believe. Then I went out and read everything else she had written, though nothing else she had written up to that point was nearly as good as Possession. The movie, when it came out, as I recall, sucked; or anyway, wasn't nearly as good as the book.
I was a little wary, getting this book, despite a review I read somewhere, which promised me wonders. But oh my is it good.
It seems like it will just be a kind of Dickensian knockoff, at first, although a very well written one. Byatt is a brilliant writer. But as we climb further and further into the book, and Byatt reveals more and more about her characters, the layers of meaning begin to build -- and oh, this is a great book. Much better even than Possession. I'll just say, because I don't want to give spoilers, that it's the most truly feminist book I have read in a long time. But not a bangy bang the drum feminist. Feminist in the sense that she's written a great work of literature about what it means to be a woman in the patriarchy feminist.
I love this book. I think I want to marry this book.
Also -- if you know anything about E. Nesbit's life? That will make you love this book even more.