Angels & Insects: Two Novellas

A. S. Byatt, With Random House (NY) $21 (339p) ISBN 978-0-679-40512-2
Revisiting the Victorian ambience of Possession , Byatt treats her large audience to more extraordinary literary gamesmanship with two intricate novellas. In ``Morpho Eugenia'' penniless young entomologist William Adamson has just returned from a 10-year expedition in the Amazon. William is taken in by a titled clergyman with scientific pretensions, and soon marries his benefactor's beautiful daughter. Unable to undertake another Amazon adventure, he studies domestic ant colonies and discovers indecent parallels between the insects and his new family. ``The Conjugial Angel'' involves a circle of spiritualists, chief among them Alfred Tennyson's sister Emily, in her youth engaged to Arthur Hallam, the man immortalized in Tennyson's In Memorium . Emily has been branded faithless for having married years after Hallam's death (Elizabeth Barrett called her a ``disgrace to womanhood''), but she is uncompromising in her pursuit of Hallam's ghost. As fans will anticipate, Byatt effortlessly exploits the opportunities for pastiche, belletristic flourish and critical commentary. If her symbolism is as excessively upholstered and overdetermined as the narratives of her Victorian models, beneath the padding she sets out a delicate chain of thematic concerns--19th-century tensions between science and faith, erotic currents within families, the nature of marital happiness--and heightens them by juxtaposing the two novellas here. Her easy ventriloquism mocks Victorian excesses even as she uses these same elements to inveigle her readers. Complex and captivating, this fluid volume recasts itself on every page. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1993
Release date: 04/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-679-75134-2
Hardcover - 978-0-517-16416-7
Paperback - 978-0-676-50318-0
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7861-0950-0
MP3 CD - 978-1-4417-0323-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-4417-0320-0
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-4332-9925-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-4417-0322-4
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