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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Literary Work
Jude Morgan's "Passion" not only is a moving and powerful novel in itself, but also gives a deep insight into the lives of the three great second-generation Romantic poets, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, as well as the various women in their lives. Using a variety of narrative techniques, it moves well inside the minds of its characters, particularly of the women, to...
Published on 14 Oct 2005

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard work
Having recently finished this very long novel, I have a feeling that it exposes me as something of a literary lightweight. I read and enjoy quite a lot of historical fiction and rarely find my choices heavy going, but reading this book felt, for me, like wading through treacle.

What makes it different from other historical fiction? Possibly the absence of plot...
Published 19 months ago by Scholastica


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Literary Work, 14 Oct 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Passion (Paperback)
Jude Morgan's "Passion" not only is a moving and powerful novel in itself, but also gives a deep insight into the lives of the three great second-generation Romantic poets, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, as well as the various women in their lives. Using a variety of narrative techniques, it moves well inside the minds of its characters, particularly of the women, to illuminate a sequence of highly emotional, romantic, and often scandalous relationships that were the delight and the horror of early nineteenth-century England, and, indeed, of most of Europe. Byron's incestuous relationship with his half-sister, Shelley's abandonment of his wife in order to live with his lover, Keats's unfulfilled longing for a woman he would never attain -- all these are presented with full honesty yet with profound sympathy as well. Only Annabella Millbank, Byron's wife, is presented as having little admirable or likeable about her, and biographical evidence appears to support this depiction. The novel is not the easiest reading with its shifting viewpoints and its wide array of narrative devices. Nor is it, at nearly 700 pages, a short work. But it well repays the time and effort it demands. It is quite simply the finest book on the subject that I have ever encountered, more informative than most straight biographies, more enlightening than most literary studies, and more enjoyable than most historical novels. Don't miss it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A group of Romantics brought vividly to life, 6 April 2007
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Passion (Paperback)
At 663 pages this is an extremely long book - but then it more or less has to be, for Morgan's huge ambition is that it should describe the lives and complex relationships of no fewer than seven central characters: Augusta Leigh, half-sister of Lord Byron, with whom she had an incestuous relationship; Caroline Lamb, wife of the future Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and who also had an affaire with Byron; Claire Claremont, who bore one illegitimate daughter to Byron and (possibly)another to Shelley (though in this novel the suggestion is that the mother was not Claire but a nursemaid for Shelley's other children); Claire's step-sister Mary, both of whom eloped with the then still married Shelley and lived in an uneasy ménage à trois with him, even after Shelley and Mary were able to marry; and Fanny Brawne, engaged to Shelley's friend John Keats. (This last relationship, touching though it is, is rather marginal to the intricate web that connects the other characters in the book.)

The lives of these women, from childhood onwards, are told in alternating sections, and it is only quite late in the novel that one gets a sense of how they are all interconnected. Augusta, Caroline and Mary (and Byron himself) each have a complicated network of relatives, and the book would certainly have benefitted from a series of family trees, which the reader has to construct for himself. Their stories are told against a richly detailed social and political background of the period (from the 1780s to the 1820s), including such information as that the gentry above-stairs had the rooms lit by candles in the evening, while below-stairs they were lit by rushes - that sort of thing.

The women in this novel have all grown up in the period of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. They are women of great character, sparklingly articulate and willing to be unconventional. `Society' disapproved when their unconventional behaviour was too public (their parents' and even their grandparents' generation had themselves challenged conventions in their time), but the disapproval was nothing like as stifling as it would be during the next two or three generations, in the Victorian Age - when the `cant' so excoriated by Byron got the upper hand: the thesis also of Ben Wilson's new book `Decency and Disorder, 1789 to 1837'. And yet the women do suffer, not so much from society's disapproval which they do not much mind, but Caroline, Augusta and Claire for having given their hearts to Byron, and Mary for having given her heart to Shelley. Shelley emerges in this novel as having given a soft heart to too many women; Byron as possibly having loved Augusta but really none of the other women of whose infatuation with him he took advantage, only to cast them off when he had tired of them. He really was a shocker; but one comes to understand how he was driven by his daemon: at one point he says that the first thing he truly hates is himself.

At the end we have sorrow upon sorrow as deaths fall like hammer-blows: the deaths of young children, and the early deaths of the three men: Keats, then Shelley, then Byron. And the women are left to mourn. But they cherish the memories of the men, and there is some comfort in that. Morgan is good throughout - but in these last pages he excels himself.

Some readers may be put off a little by his somewhat idiosyncratic style: in the childhood chapters verging occasionally on archness; many sentences without main verbs; shifts between the historic present and the past tense; an occasional pastiche of 19th century prose; sometimes the characters address the reader directly; - but the writing is hugely intelligent and always pacey; the descriptive writing is very good, and the dialogues and the delineation of characters are very well done. The way the relationship between Byron and Augusta is portrayed is an especial highlight of the book.

The historical facts of all these relationships are truly `stranger than fiction'. This historical fiction is very close to the historical facts, and it makes for a compelling and informative read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Literary Insight, 14 Oct 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Passion (Paperback)
Jude Morgan's "Passion" not only is a moving and powerful novel in itself, but also gives a deep insight into the lives of the three great second-generation Romantic poets, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, as well as the various women in their lives. Using a variety of narrative techniques, it moves well inside the minds of its characters, particularly of the women, to illuminate a sequence of highly emotional, romantic, and often scandalous relationships that were the delight and the horror of early nineteenth-century England, and, indeed, of most of Europe. Byron's incestuous relationship with his half-sister, Shelley's abandonment of his wife in order to live with his lover, Keats's unfulfilled longing for a woman he would never attain -- all these are presented with full honesty yet with profound sympathy as well. Only Annabella Millbank, Byron's wife, is presented as having little admirable or likeable about her, and biographical evidence appears to support this depiction. The novel is not the easiest reading with its shifting viewpoints and its wide array of narrative devices. Nor is it, at nearly 700 pages, a short work. But it well repays the time and effort it demands. It is quite simply the finest book on the subject that I have ever encountered, more informative than most straight biographies, more enlightening than most literary studies, and more enjoyable than most historical novels. Don't miss it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A whole new world has opened to me!, 30 Nov 2005
By 
JL McKinnon-Johnson "Janey" (Iberia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Passion (Paperback)
I admit to finding the bginning of this book rather turgid and hard going, as it took me some while to 'get into' the author's style and mind. However, I am so glad I did - this is a truly amazing story, and one I (ashamedly) admit I knew very little about. Now I have this whole new world of information about Mary Shelley, PB Shelley, Byron, Caro Lamb, Keats et al. The previous reviewer cites this as a story of the men, and the women's narratives are interwoven, but I beg to differ. This book is certainly written from the point of view of the female characters, which makes it all the more enjoyable in my view. His depiction of Caro Lamb and her descent into near insanity is an arresting portrayal, and I tremendously enjoyed his angle of having Caro 'speak' to the reader. I did some surfing about the main characters, and am astonished at how well they have were depicted, so much so that when I actually viewed various drawings and portraits of them, they were instantly familiar. Also, I must not omit comment on the post battle narrative; gruesomely excellent in it's revelation.
Beautifully written helluva read. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Don't be afraid of the world. Square up to it. Knock it down.", 28 Nov 2005
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Passion (Paperback)
Focusing on the women in the lives of the romantic poets--Byron, Shelley, and Keats--rather than on the poets themselves, Jude Morgan recreates the years from 1812 - 1824, during which time Mary Godwin, Augusta Leigh, Caroline Lamb, Claire Clairmont, and Fanny Brawne fall in love, encourage the poets in some of their finest work, and ultimately, learn to cope with the poets' premature deaths. Mary Godwin, daughter of journalist/philosopher William Godwin and early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, is the linchpin of this biographical novel. Falling in love with Percy Bysshe Shelley at age sixteen, Mary defies convention by running away to the continent with Shelley when his wife refuses to grant him a divorce.

In contrast to Shelley, Lord Byron has many lovers. Augusta Leigh, his half-sister and the wife of George Leigh, is terrified that her feelings for Byron will become public. Caroline Lamb, married to William Lamb, conducts a long affair with him, pursuing him even after he marries her cousin, Annabella Milbanke (mother of his daughter Ada). Claire Clairmont, stepsister of Mary Godwin Shelley, becomes his lover in Italy and the mother of another daughter, Allegra.

The story of Fanny Brawne and John Keats does not unfold until almost the end of the novel. As Keats seems not to have much direct connection with Byron and Shelley here, and as Fanny is far more conventional in personality than any of the other women, the addition of this story line feels somewhat disconnected and is not integrated into most of the action.

Author Jude Morgan recreates conversations and fleshes out the daily lives of these characters, creating scenes that are often dramatic and sometimes moving. His careful attention to detail and immense research create a full picture of the attitudes of the times, and the context in which these women lived. With five female characters, however, he sometimes changes focus unexpectedly, and the reader must pay careful attention to detail to figure out who is who in the changing scenes. Occasionally even the point of view changes unexpectedly--from the third person to first person.

For those interested in the romantic poets, Morgan's novel offers many new insights and fascinating glimpses of early nineteenth century life, as romanticism emerges from the neoclassicism of the past. He assumes, however, that the reader will bring some knowledge of the poets and their works to the novel, spending little time discussing the works themselves, and concentrating on relationships instead. Mary Shelley, Augusta Leigh, Caroline Lamb, and Claire Clairmont, all early feminists, flout convention and sacrifice all for love, often behaving more romantically than the poets. Carefully researched, Passion offers fascinating information within an uneven narrative structure.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Romantic tendencies!, 21 Nov 2006
By 
Room For A View - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Passion (Paperback)
This `factual dramatisation' is a captivating insight into the personal lives of some of the most influential writers of the Romantic period of English literature. Although I found the mix of literary techniques occasionally distracting, the narrative (after a difficult start) eventually absorbed me in a fascinating and entertaining account of Regency Radicals such as Shelly, the Godwins, and Byron (promiscuous, celebrity, seemingly fuelled by a profound restlessness). And there are the female sufferers of Byron's intense but short-lived passions: Caro, Gus and Bell. Suicide (actual and imagined) and human frailty haunt the pages and, for me, conveyed the physical and mental pressure placed on individuals who choose to ignore and or dispute Society's conventions and moral prejudices. Morgan skilfully creates erudite personalities for these historical characters, using biographical material, to add weight and depth (the exception being Keats). For me Shelly proves to be the most interesting, if at times, perplexing: a self contradictory utopian who denounces marriage and religion (although married twice), abhors superstition and ignorance, promotes free thinking, equality, portentously itching for his inheritance. Considering the subject matter and various plot progressions this story is an easy and enjoyable read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Good, 19 July 2007
This review is from: Passion (Paperback)
I bought this novel purely because the blurb contained a Shelley reference but was not terribly motivated to read it due to the horrendously tacky cover design; I wrote it off as trash. However, once I got into it I was pleasantly surprised as, certainly in the case of Shelley, it is obvious that the reader has thoroughly researched his subjects and does not judge them. He presents the strengths and weakness of each character - Lady Caroline Lamb isn't written off as mad, Shelley isn't angelic and Byron isn't devilish. Consequently you end up empathising with ALL the characters, which is no mean feat.

The language Morgan uses hits just the right note too - not pretensiously and incorrectly stuffy as 'period drama' language can be, but also with no jarringly modern terms.

I was curious as to the gender of the author and was faintly surprised he was male due to his insight into Mary Shelley's emotions. There aren't many male authors I know who write convincingly from inside a woman's mind. Well done Mr. Morgan!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really well done, 14 Dec 2005
This review is from: Passion (Paperback)
Before we start, I should confess to being a complete fan of this historical period so this book was going to be right up my street. Having said that, the author exceeded my expectations to the point where I really couldn't put it down and I read it in about 3 days. The only weak point is that having so many plot lines, you lose track of the one involving Keats. There's more than enough going on with Byron and Shelley to keep you interested, and I felt that a stronger editorial hand would have cut the Keats sections as they really weren't needed (and probably could be another book entirely). Despite this small flaw, I was still captivated and shall read his other works too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard work, 13 Feb 2013
This review is from: Passion (Paperback)
Having recently finished this very long novel, I have a feeling that it exposes me as something of a literary lightweight. I read and enjoy quite a lot of historical fiction and rarely find my choices heavy going, but reading this book felt, for me, like wading through treacle.

What makes it different from other historical fiction? Possibly the absence of plot - in being true to the historical facts of three historical figures and the women in their lives, there is a lot of information and many different scenes. A lot of it, quite simply, doesn't slot together. I imagine that a majority of novelists want to create a seamless read, sweeping the reader along. Jude Morgan, on the other hand, moves the novel along in fits and starts, switching from one main character to another with no real indication that a shift in perspective is about to happen.

I did enjoy some brilliant dialogue - in particular between Byron and his half sister, Augusta - and it seems that Byron is the most fully realised of the three poets.

Am I glad I read it? In a way, yes - I learned a lot that I didn't know before, but I didn't enjoy it - maybe I just don't like reading novels that ask you to work that little bit harder.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful research and writing, 14 April 2010
By 
This review is from: Passion (Paperback)
I read this book on the back of being completely entranced by Morgan's later book The Taste of Sorrow about the Brontes. Possibly if I had read this one first I may have awarded Passion the extra star (whilst still 5 starring the Bronte book.

Curiously, it was the subject matter of this book which began to irritate a little, - the stories of the women who were linked with the second generation of Romantic Poets - Byron - Caro Lamb and Augusta Leigh - and Claire Claremont; Shelley - Mary Shelley and Claire Clairemont - and Keats - Fanny Brawne.

I found myself too caught up in 21st century sensibilities - this is my problem, not Morgan's - and out of patience, with women with little to offer to our interest except being some man's plaything. With the exception of Mary Shelley, the daughter of Godwin and Mary Wollstonecroft, these women seemed to offer little of themselves, outside a relationship with the man of the moment. I know this can't be laid at their door - there were few opportunities for women to be other than wives, mistresses or mothers, but having such a large cast of pretty faces who are only of note because of who they bedded, felt frustrating.

The Bronte book, by contrast, felt so much deeper because the central characters were so interesting of themselves, and of course there were so many parallels between their lives and the books and poems they wrote from their lives.
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Passion
Passion by Jude Morgan (Paperback - 2 May 2005)
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