Passion Paperback – 2 May 2005
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I loved Jude Morgan's Passion, which seems to me to achieve exactly what historical fiction is for, namely, to illuminate the past to the present...it's compellingly well-written, and stylish with it (Joanna Trollope, Observer)
'I loved Jude Morgan's Passion, which seems to me to achieve exactly what historical fiction is for, namely, to illuminate the past to the present...it's compellingly well-written, and stylish with it' Joanna Trollope, Observer (Joanna Trollope, Observer)
'I can't remember when I last read a book that was so elegantly and stylishly written and yet at the same time so absolutely engrossing and compelling' Diane Pearson (legendary editor at Transworld, bestselling author and Chair of the RNA) (Diane Pearson (legendary editor at Transworld, bes)
'Once Passion gathers pace, it becomes unputdownable. Stunningly well researched, its multi-stranded epic qualities can't fail to hook and seduce' Guardian, 13/11/04 (Guardian)
'It's hard to describe this huge, ambitious historical novel without coming over like a Hollywood film pitch: 'the Romantic poets - and the women who loved them', but in depicting the lives of four women who were romantically involved with Byron, Shelley and Keats, Morgan has pulled off an epic feat both of imagination and of research... Morgan takes us deep into the souls of these extraordinary women, filling us with admiration for their defiance of convention' Marie Claire, August 2004 issue (Marie Claire)
This is an engrossing tale that will charm and enthral readers in equal measure (Hot Stars and Star magazine)
'PASSION is a wonderful book - rich, authentic, beautifully written and, yes, passionate. It tells familiar stories of famous men and women from fresh angles, breathing life into them rather like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein did to his monster. I have not been better entertained all year' Tracy Chevalier (Tracy Chevalier)
'Beautifully written, with fresh metaphors and convincing voices' Tracy Chevalier, Observer (Tracy Chevalier, Observer)
'A treat for all lovers of historical fiction' Sunday Express magazine, 12/6/05 (Sunday Express magazine)
'Entertaining, well written and very informative' Sainsbury's magazine, June 2005 (Sainsbury's magazine)
'A page-turning doorstop of a novel, combining scandal, tragedy and, of course, passion' You magazine, 8 May 2005 (You magazine)
'A big book in both style and ambition: a flamboyant, confident and endlessly inventive novel about Shelley, Byron, Keats - and wives, girlfriends, babies, sisters, travels, debts, terrors, conquests, heartbreaks. You would hardly think it could be done, but Morgan has captured not just the fabulous aura of these Romantic icons, but also their human particularity, and woven their stories together in a manner that is both entertaining and elegant' Hilary Mantel, Guardian, 16/6/05 (Hilary Mantel, Guardian)
'This is a sensational story of money, marriage and, above all, high-wrought emotion... A sprightly, intelligent romp through chartered territory' Kirkus Reviews 1/8/05 (Kirkus Reviews)
'Carefully researched, deeply imagined and gorgeously written novel... Dense, empathetic, detailed portraits of each woman lift them above their iconography... Morgan brings a fascinating past to brilliant light' (Publishers Weekly)
Jude Morgan, author of THE KING'S TOUCH, brings the world of the Romantic generation to life in all its supercharged emotion, individualism, violence and sensualitySee all Product description
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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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