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Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land [Paperback]

John Crowley
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 9.56 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Product details

  • Paperback: 465 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060556595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060556594
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 868,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

One of our most accomplished literary artists, John Crowley imagines the novel the haunted Romantic poet Lord Byron never penned ...but very well might have. Saved from destruction, read, and annotated by Byron's own abandoned daughter, Ada, the manuscript is rediscovered in our time -- and almost not recognized. "Lord Byron's Novel" is the story of a dying daughter's attempt to understand the famous father she longed for -- and the young woman who, by learning the secret of Byron's manuscript and Ada's devotion, reconnects with her own father, driven from her life by a crime as terrible as any of which Byron himself was accused.

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The young son of an Albanian mother is discovered in Albania by his Scottish father, Lord Sane, who brings him back to a deteriorating manse in Scotland and schools him for a new life as his heir. Ali, the boy, apparently tainted by the Sane family curse, soon begins his misadventures. A painful young love, a gruesome hanging, an escape by ship in the moonlight, the discovery of a young woman masquerading as a boy, ominous sleepwalking episodes, the periodic appearance of a bear, the arrival of a ghostly double, false imprisonment-all these events figure in Ali's story, which illustrate all the complications of a Gothic romance.
Author John Crowley presents Ali's story as the missing novel written by George Gordon, Lord Byron in 1816, creating a scenario in which Byron's missing manuscript is sold to finance Byron's involvement in European movements promoting Liberty and Freedom. Clear parallels exist between events in Ali's story and events in Byron's life, but Crowley also connects Bryon, through his manuscript, with the life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, Byron's estranged daughter.
In a third plot line, a web site designer, Alexandra Novak, known as "Smith," is working on a site devoted to women's science history. Georgiana, her client, purchases some papers found in a seaman's trunk which once belonged to Ada's son Byron, who ran away to sea. Showing Smith a single sheet of an unknown manuscript in Byron's handwriting, Georgiana also finds many additional pages containing long columns of numbers, their importance unknown. Smith's attempts to discover the secret to the numbers, written by Ada, unfold simultaneously with Ali's story.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more accessible and sometimes more entertaining than crowley's previous great books 9 July 2005
By Mina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Although I take issue with what some reviewers here have said--that this is Crowley's best book (no way, that's "Little, Big")--I think that "Lord Byron's Novel" is certainly one of the two or three best novels of this year. It really is extraordinary and audacious: a novel-within-a-novel written entirely in the idiom of 19th century England--punctuated by a epistolary novel written by electronic mail! What the hell? This is bizarre stuff, and it doesn't always work, but for the most part it absolutely does, and the book is incredibly entertaining and inventive. From the Polanski-like contemporary father to the Satanic Lord Sane in Byron's lost novel, there are some extremely memorable characters here...quite honestly, I was thrilled by the whole novel.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Is there any spur to our feelings that is as sharp as Renunciation?" 24 July 2005
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The young son of an Albanian mother is discovered in Albania by his Scottish father, Lord Sane, who brings him back to a deteriorating manse in Scotland and schools him for a new life as his heir. Ali, the boy, apparently tainted by the Sane family curse, soon begins his misadventures. A painful young love, a gruesome hanging, an escape by ship in the moonlight, the discovery of a young woman masquerading as a boy, ominous sleepwalking episodes, the periodic appearance of a bear, the arrival of a ghostly double, false imprisonment--all these events figure in Ali's story, which illustrate all the complications of a Gothic romance.

Author John Crowley presents Ali's story as the missing novel written by George Gordon, Lord Byron in 1816, creating a scenario in which Byron's missing manuscript is sold to finance Byron's involvement in European movements promoting Liberty and Freedom. Clear parallels exist between events in Ali's story and events in Byron's life, but Crowley also connects Bryon, through his manuscript, with the life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, Byron's estranged daughter.

In a third plot line, a web site designer, Alexandra Novak, known as "Smith," is working on a site devoted to women's science history. Georgiana, her client, purchases some papers found in a seaman's trunk which once belonged to Ada's son Byron, who ran away to sea. Georgiana shows Smith a single sheet of an unknown manuscript in Byron's handwriting, but there are many additional pages containing long columns of numbers, their importance unknown. Smith's attempts to discover the secret to the numbers, written by Ada, unfold simultaneously with Ali's story.

Crowley maintains his fine sense of where and when to change the focus from Ali to Ada to Smith in order to keep the tension and interest high, creating intriguing plot lines which intersect and gradually reveal parallels in the lives of the characters. Life, love, betrayal, alienation, separation and reconciliation are themes pervading all the subplots, and the coincidences and moments of revelation, common to all romantic novels, keep the reader intrigued.

There is no real suspense, however. Crowley begins the novel with an episode from Ali's life, making it obvious from the beginning that Byron's novel IS discovered. The biographies of Bryon and Ada are well documented, and no suspense evolves from new discoveries. The episodes in Ali's life are similar to those in many other Gothic romances, not unique. Still, I found the novel to be a delightful read--a terrific escape into romanticism, possibly the most classically romantic novel in recent years. n Mary Whipple
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comes together beautifully 3 July 2005
By JA - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"The Evening Land" is indeed another great novel by Crowley. Other authors (including, arguably, Crowley himself) have written novels about modern characters making extraordinary discoveries both historical and personal as they pore over ancient manuscripts--but here, the novel for the most part IS the manuscript, and it is quite a story. To write an entire novel in the voice of Lord Byron takes some remarkable audacity, and Crowley pulls it off. The story is thrilling and pretty hilarious--like this bit, right after "Byron's" protagonist Ali has been arrested for murder:

"...For the Law has undoubted Majesty--and that Majesty is not diminished when we observe the Law's wig askew, or its waistcoat misbuttoned; nor in that we have seen the Law drunk at the Fair, or upon the public road..."

It's these sort of cheerful, sarcastic, offhand pleasures that make the novel-within-a-novel such a pleasure to read. And the end of that novel, the last few paragraphs, in which its title is finally explained, are some of the more oddly haunting and unexpectedly emotional paragraphs I've read in recent memory. This book is full of surprises and pleasures, large and small. (Especially look out for certainly anagrammatical secrets hidden in a few places...some characters are more than who they seem, though most readers will miss it...)
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Falls short of its ambitions 30 Jun 2005
By Harry Haller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Look, I've enjoyed Crowley's books for nearly 30 years, since I read _Beasts_ sometime in the mid 70s. If I had to list my 5 favorite books of all time, it's likely that 3 of them would be Crowley titles (Little Big, Engine Summer, and Love and Sleep). Crowley used to write these amazingingly dense, erudite, yet very emotionally charged books that are, I think, everything a novel should be. But this book left me completely uninterested, frustrated, and ultimately as disatisfied with a book as I recall ever being. I finished it while traveling on an airplane, and I left it in my seat back with no interest in ever seeing it again.

Maybe I misunderstood the premise, or the way it is described or depicted. I thought that it was a book about some people in our own time who stumble across a lost novel by Lord Byron, which was encoded somehow by the early computer scientist Ada Lovelace, his daughter, and that Crowley would include some of the novel as written by Byron. I imagined it as sort of like Aegypt, in which the modern-day sections are interwoven with excerpts from a historical novel. But that isn't really what we have here. Instead, we have the entire Byron novel, written by Crowley. Now, I'm certainly no Byron scholar, but I have read some of his poetery, and IMO, this book is nothing at all like a work by Byron. I just don't see it, even though one of the characters in the modern-day portion of the book is a Byron scholar and he tells us that the book does seem genuine. I'm sorry, but it doesn't. Crowley even quotes a few stanzas of Byron's poetry, which just highlights what a poor imitation this is. It is mentioned a couple of times that this is a "rough draft" but that strikes me as a poor excuse. Then there is the Byron novel itself. It is just a ridiculous story with pointless plot twist after pointless plot twist... the main "surprise" is easily anticipated by anyone who has seen the Star Wars movies. I just found it incredibly tedious and ended up skimming at least the last 50 pages of it. The Ada Lovelace portion is disapointing; you have no real sense of her as a person. And the modern-day part is done entirely as a bunch of email exchanges among the major characters. I thought that the encryption and decoding aspect would be a major part of the story, but that took a total of about 3 pages.

I recently read some advice to young writers someplace that said that your novel should be all action and dialogue, with all of the "other stuff" removed. This book illustrates beautifully exactly why that is dead wrong. I just don't understand the enthusiasm for this book. It seems as poor an imitation of a Crowley novel as Crowley's Byron is of that poet.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Idea 11 May 2007
By M. Mellen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Great idea, that wore thin after a while. I loved the parts with the lovers communicating via email about the discoveries regarding the book. I loved the background of Byron's daughter's story. I didn't really get into the actual "novel" that much. Nice try though.
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