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Starred Review. On a stormy night at Lord Byron's Swiss villa, Mary Shelley challenged her host, her husband and herself to write a ghost story. Mary's, of course, became Frankenstein. Byron supposedly soon gave up his—but, Crowley asks, what if he didn't? The result is this brilliant gothic novel of manners enclosed in two frames. In one, Byron's manuscript comes into the hands of Ada, his daughter by his estranged wife. Ada, in reality, became famous as a proto-cyberneticist, having collaborated on mathematician Charles Babbage's "difference engine." In Crowley's novel, Ada ciphers Byron's work into a kind of code in order to keep it from her mother. The second frame consists of the contemporary discovery of Ada's notes on Byron's story by Alexandra Novak, who's researching Ada for a Web site dedicated to the history of women in science. Alex is, a little too conveniently (this novel's one structural flaw), the estranged daughter of a Byron scholar and filmmaker; her interest in Ada dovetails with her father's interest in Byron, and she's fascinated by the notes and the code both. By applying Byron's scintillating epistolary style to the novel he should have written, Crowley creates a pseudo-Byronic masterpiece. The plot follows Ali, the bastard son of Lord "Satan" Sane and an unfortunate minor wife of a minor Albanian "Bey." Sane finds and takes the boy, aged 12, back to Regency England. Ali's life is filled with gothic events, from the murder of his father (of which he is accused) to his escape from England with the help of a "zombi," the fortuitous and critical aid he gives the English army at the Battle of Salamanca and his love affair with a married woman. The myth of Byron's lost papers has a catalyzing effect on American literary genius, giving us James's Aspern Papers and now Crowley's best novel.
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Did Byron leave behind a novel? That's the premise of this one, which posits that the manuscript ended up in the hands of his brilliant daughter, Ada. Around 150 years later, Ada's notes on the text, a tantalizing single page of the manuscript, and several pages of numbers are discovered by another brainy daughter, Alexandra Novak, an American who is in London researching the lives of British women of science for a Web site called Strong Woman Story. Alexandra (or Smith, as she is called) enlists the help of her lover Thea, a mathematician, and her estranged father, Lee, once a professor of Byron studies, to unravel the mystery of the novel, which Ada claimed was destroyed. Crowley's use of three different devices--Byron's work, a convincing piece of romantic fiction rich with thinly disguised autobiographical elements; Ada's annotations; and a series of e-mails exchanged in the present day--adds up to an intriguing and multilayered whole. This book should appeal to fans of another literary mystery, A. S. Byatt's Possession (1991). Mary Ellen Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I can't understand why Crowley isn't taught, lauded and magnified much more than he is. He is simply a genius, and Lord Byron's Novel achieves something grand as well as very... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Roberta Flackwood
John Crowley's novel Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land has its origin in a famous storytelling contest. Read morePublished on June 30, 2011 by Dana Huff
If Lord Byron wrote a novel, and this was how it turned out, destroying it was the best thing that could have happened. Read morePublished on April 25, 2009 by Timothy P. Stallcup
The technique of a story within a story is not new. In fact, it goes back to Sanskrit literature. Shakespeare used it effectively. Read morePublished on July 29, 2007 by John R. Lindermuth
Great idea, that wore thin after a while. I loved the parts with the lovers communicating via email about the discoveries regarding the book. Read morePublished on May 11, 2007 by M. Mellen
After reading most of the reviews about Crowley's novel, it is clear to me that the greatest misconception that one can have about this story is that it was written to be a... Read morePublished on June 23, 2006 by catskis
A very very clever concept Mr Crowley. a novel, within a novel, within a novel!
For those unfamiliar, one of the first programming languages in data processing in the... Read more
Why was this book written? If this was an actual novel by Lord Byron, maybe the overstuffed mishmash of a plot (Doppelgangers! Duels! Zombies! War! Madness! Read morePublished on January 27, 2006 by Ian Abrams
Don't be fooled into thinking this is yet another in the recent deluge of TDVC clones trying to cash in on the prevailing fad about "code and quest" novels, because it isn't. Read morePublished on November 23, 2005 by Dai-keag-ity