Synopses & Reviews
These two fascinating novellas, like A. S. Byatt's Booker Prize-winning novel Possession
, are set in the mid-nineteenth century, weaving fact and fiction, reality and romance.
"Morpho Eugenia" is a lively Gothic fable of the Earthly Paradise, of the Victorian obsession with Darwinian theories of breeding and sexuality and the parallels between insect and human society the capture and taming of nature, whether it be a young woman in a country house or a rare butterfly, gleaming in the forests of the Amazon.
"The Conjugial Angel" concerns Tennyson's In Memoriam, published in 1850, mourning the death seventeen years before of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who was engaged to Tennyson's sister Emily. A philosophical ghost story, bizarre, comic, and moving, in which fictive mediums meet "real" characters, it explores the contemporary preoccupation with God and life after death. Resonant, magical, entirely original, this is A. S. Bryant at her best.
"Two postmodern novellas with Victorian themes that have all the leaden scholarly pretension of that era and none of the leavening irony that made Byatt's bestselling Possession so successful a mix of erudition and wit....Too much learning can be a dangerous thing for a novelist who needs to separate the learned monograph from the illuminating tale. Dull and forced." Kirkus Reviews
"Byatt revisits the Victorian landscape of Possession in these two fluid and intricate novellas." Publishers Weekly
"More fully assured and satisfying than Possession, [Angels and Insects] must be [Byatt's] best work to date. The main reason is her abandonment of the pretence that life is what she is imitating in favour of full-hearted literariness....Byatt has not stayed with fiction precisely, nor moved to faction, but developed a form (ficticism?) which has allowed her to be herself." Marilyn Butler, The Times Literary Supplement (London)
In these breathtaking novellas, A.S. Byatt returns to the territory she explored in Possession: the landscape of Victorian England, where science and spiritualism are both popular manias, and domestic decorum coexists with brutality and perversion. Angels and Insects is "delicate and confidently ironic.... Byatt perfectly blends laughter and sympathy [with] extraordinary sensuality" (San Francisco Examiner).
About the Author
A.S. Byatt is the author of the novels Possession (winner of the Booker Prize in 1990), The Game, and the sequence The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, and Babel Tower. She has also written two novellas, published together as Angels and Insects, and four collections of shorter works, including The Matisse Stories and The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye. Educated at Cambridge, she was a senior lecturer in English at University College, London, before becoming a full-time writer in 1983. A distinguished critic as well as a novelist, she lives in London.