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Byron in Love: A Short Daring Life Hardcover – June 15, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (June 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393070115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393070118
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Celebrated novelist and biographer O'Brien (The Country Girls trilogy) is a keen cicerone to the strange and insatiable love life of œthe lame poet with the features of Adonis. Drawing on Marchand's three-volume biography of Lord Byron, while adding to this her immersion in letters and journals, O'Brien presents a figure we can see all-around. With a perennial worry about his weight, not to mention his right clubfoot, Byron, O'Brien says, compensated by indulging in homosexual relationships, most notably with John Edleston, and heterosexual trysts. Indeed, Byron always seemed to be in love and on the run, traversing Europe from Spain and Portugal to Albania and Greece. His travels and his loves inspired Manfred, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and, above all, Don Juan. Of interest as well are Byron's hot-and-cold relations with publisher John Murray, the Shelleys (who were largely appalled by Byron's lifestyle) and Dr. Polidori, whose novel on œthe vampyre would inspire an industry. At times a bit breathless, this compact life sets the emotional background for a poet who today is more famous for his life story than his work. 8 pages of illus. (June 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

In this jaunty biography, O’Brien eschews considerations of Byron’s poetry to examine his amorous adventures, offering her reader the kind of fabulous anecdotes that made the poet a celebrity throughout Europe. A string of volatile relationships, interrupted only by bouts of gonorrhea or the onset of “the poetry mania,” began with his mother, who liked to taunt him about his clubfoot before smothering him with kisses. Women (and sometimes men) found his “combination of genius and Satanism” irresistible and, often, maddening: one thwarted paramour sent him a lock of her pubic hair “tinged with blood” and burned him in effigy. Out of O’Brien’s kinetic recounting of scandal after scandal, a sense of the poet’s pathos emerges: Byron did, at times, love deeply. But by eliding his literary personality O’Brien risks voyeurism.
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More About the Author

Edna O'Brien, the author of "The Country Girls" Trilogy, "The Light of Evening," and "Byron in Love," is the recipient of the James Joyce Ulysses Medal, and an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in London.

Customer Reviews

It's a short book and a pleasure to read.
carey roberts
Byron, in his life and poetry, contributed much to the romantic Gothic myth, popular today.
Adriannah
I couldn't finish this and wish I hadn't started it.
Sarah Tonin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Richard Masloski on June 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There is 1997's 400+ page BYRON:THE FLAWED ANGEL by Phyllis Grosskurth. There is 1999's colossal, almost 800 page BYRON: CHILD OF PASSION, FOOL OF FAME by Benita Eisler. And then there is 2002's almost 600 page BYRON: LIFE AND LEGEND by Fiona MacCarthy. All three books just mentioned are handsomely designed, graced with vital illustrations and thoroughly researched, wonderfully written and, for anyone wishing to know Byron in rich, deep detail I suggest they seek out these volumes. (Curious that all three of these books - including the one I am about to discuss - are written by women. Byron always attracted the ladies - in his own day down unto the present time, it seems.)

Anyway - along comes Edna O'Brien's take on the great man and poet. There are NO illustrations in this slim volume, despite Publisher's Weekly saying there were eight pages of illustrations in its review. The dustjacket - as designed by Evan Gaffney Design - is amongst the most lurid and cheesy book covers I have ever seen. The book itself: I wonder why it was actually written, in view of the mammoth biographies listed above (not to mention Leslie Marchand's epic three volume LIFE OF BYRON written in the late fifties.) I suppose if someone wants to know something of Lord Byron - but not too much - then this highly condensed and easy read is the book for them. It narrows in on Byron's love life (hence the blatant, trite title) so you will learn next to nothing of his poetry or what made his poetry great. The Diodati summer with the Shelley party is barely mentioned. (The book's jump from his failed marriage to his revels in Venice reminds me of the BBC Production BYRON done a few years ago; while a very good movie, it - like this book - is much too brief.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue VINE VOICE on June 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Byron in Love: A Short Daring Life," gives us a short, daring treatment of the life of George Gordon, Lord Byron, noted romantic poet of the British Regency period. Byron, whom many consider to be the first modern celebrity, a rock star in his own time, composed the longer works "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," and "Don Juan," as well as the famed shorter works "She Walks in Beauty," "When We Two Parted," and "So, We'll Go No More A Roving." He lived most of his life (1788-1824) within what's considered the Regency period in Great Britain; (the time when George IV ascended the throne, although his father, George III was still alive, though mentally incapacitated; the situation required a regency.) This period is most strictly dated from 1811-1820; but is more generally considered to run from 1795-1837, between the English Georgian and Victorian ages. Jane Austen is generally considered the landmark British author of the age; but, despite Austen's pleasantly civilized domestic novels, it was a period of great licentious excess, particularly among the nobility, who were light years removed from, and astronomically richer than, their more ordinary compatriots. And Byron was the most licentious of them all: one of his many mistresses, the well-known Lady Caroline Lamb, notably characterized him as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." And, of course, as these things go, as the yin always calls forth the yang, this era was followed by the prudish and hypocritical Victorian period.

Edna O'Brien, noted Irish author (The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue), and most recently
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Todd and In Charge VINE VOICE on September 1, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Edna O'Brien is a gifted writer with a deft touch and a wonderful way of composing her sentences. And she has put together a breezy, light biography of Byron the man, mostly focusing on his loves and passions.

However, given the earlier comprehensive bios available, I was left at the end wondering what the point of this book exactly was? Is it for Byron fanatics, people with mild Byron interests -- who is the audience?

As much as I enjoyed reading it (and it's a quick read), I would pass unless you are a great fan of Ms. O'Brien.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lida on September 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I understand that "better" biographies have been written on Byron, but I certainly did not want to read a 600-page book when I was simply looking for some light reading ... I read this purely for entertainment, and it served its purpose. I'm not a huge fan of HOW it is written; in some parts I wondered whether her editor had even reviewed it. Perhaps a bit more commentary on what works he wrote during particular periods of his life would have been nice - context tends to be helpful. But that doesn't seem to be the author's goal here. Instead, the author focuses on the man rather than the poet, providing an interesting biography of a deplorable, destructive (to self and others) human being and the impact he had on everyone and everything around him. It's impossible to walk away from this book without concrete opinions and sentiments regarding the infamous Lord Byron. If you're looking for a fun rather than academic biography of Byron, this one is pretty decent.
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