Thursday, October 10, 2013

Passion by Jude Morgan

I picked this book up because it looked interesting. Thankfully, the cover the first one I saw on Goodreads (the one that makes it look like some historical romance novel), or I would have never given it a go.

Passion is about three famous English poets - Lord Byron (is it just me, or am I the only one who tends to spell it Bryon?), Shelley (husband of the famous Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein) and Keats. But instead of focusing on these men directly, the book takes a more oblique view by looking at the women they loved/who loved them - Mary Goodwin (later Mary Shelley), Lady Caroline Lamb (first obsessed fan-stalker), Augusta Leigh (half-sister of Lord Byron) and Fanny Brawne (the fiance of Keats)

My first impression of this book was that it was rushing at me. Rushing, trying to drown me in a sea of images and styles. Perhaps it's just me, but I didn't really click with the book because of this. Instead of feeling immersed in history, I felt as though I was being inundated with images and text and people (and I still felt disconnected).

Plus, for such an ambitious book, it seemed to have problems focusing. Most of the book was about Caroline, Augusta and Byron (well, they did have a very interesting story). Mary and Shelley came in later (as they got to know Byron), and Fanny and Keats had the least amount of paper-space. That meant that there were snippets of Mary Goodwin and Fanny Brawne throughout the book, but it wasn't later til I knew how their stories fit in the whole picture. To me, the book could have cut out Keats and Fanny altogether and I wouldn't have noticed a difference - the book is more about Lord Byron and the woman around him than any other poet. Although to be fair, the latter parts (third? fourth?) of the book does focus on Shelley and Mary.

Another problem for me was the many writing styles. There seemed to be a lot of passive writing, a few dialogues as though it were a play and even an attempt at stream-of-conciousness. It would have worked if the styles were consistent, but it wasn't (I used to think *possible spoiler alert* 'crazy-stream-of-conciousness-type-voice = Lady Caroline, but then I realised it wasn't true). I would have much preferred the book if it were written in a more direct style.

I think I only finished the book because I was curious about these four women, and Wikipedia made them seem interesting. Otherwise, I might not have made it through.

Note: I'm not sure why the Goodreads page count is the way it is (different edition perhaps?) but my copy states that there are 663 pages, so I'm counting this as part of the Tea and Books reading challenge.

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