A Quiet Adjustment

Benjamin Markovits, Author . Norton $24.95 (341p) ISBN 978-0-393-06700-2

When Lord Byron married Annabella Milbanke in 1815, neither anticipated the epic scandal that would ensue, one that novelist Markovits (Fathers and Daughters , etc.) captures beautifully in this elegant reconstruction, focused entirely on Annabella. Divided into three sections (“Courtship,” “Marriage” and “Separation”) the book opens as 19-year-old Annabella acknowledges her own desire for fame and power, or what her mother, Judy, calls “scope.” In the marriage section, Annabella's vision of Byron, whom she knew more through his poetry and his two-year epistolary pursuit of her than in person, shatters on living with the real personality—a compound of debts, moodiness and one big guilty secret. Markovits makes her discoveries suspenseful, and the secret's revelation gothic. The wrenching “adjustment” that follows in the marriage finds Annabella, ever observant, using Byron's secret to craft his ultimate punishment. Markovits's choice of an ornate Jamesian style captures every nuance of Annabella's shift from the victimized wife to the sinister deliberateness of the vengeful ex-spouse. As she remarks at the end about her husband, “I feel like I have been reaching towards him all my life, without the warmth of his affection, the cold hand of love.” Markovits plumbs the very depths of this passionate chill. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/16/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 328 pages - 978-0-571-23334-2
Paperback - 341 pages - 978-0-393-33022-9
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