Angels and Insects: Two Novellas

( 3 )

Overview

These two fascinating novellas, like A. S. Byatt's Booker Prize-winning novel Possession, are set in the mid-nineteenth century, weaving fact and fiction, reality and romance. "Morpho Eugenia" is a lively Gothic fable of the Earthly Paradise, of the Victorian obsession with Darwinian theories of breeding and sexuality and the parallels between insect and human society - the capture and taming of nature, whether it be a young woman in a country house or a rare butterfly, gleaming in the forests of the Amazon. "The...
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Angels & Insects: Two Novellas

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Overview

These two fascinating novellas, like A. S. Byatt's Booker Prize-winning novel Possession, are set in the mid-nineteenth century, weaving fact and fiction, reality and romance. "Morpho Eugenia" is a lively Gothic fable of the Earthly Paradise, of the Victorian obsession with Darwinian theories of breeding and sexuality and the parallels between insect and human society - the capture and taming of nature, whether it be a young woman in a country house or a rare butterfly, gleaming in the forests of the Amazon. "The Conjugial Angel" concerns Tennyson's In Memoriam, published in 1850, mourning the death seventeen years before of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who was engaged to Tennyson's sister Emily. A philosophical ghost story, bizarre, comic, and moving, in which fictive mediums meet "real" characters, it explores the contemporary preoccupation with God and life after death. Resonant, magical, entirely original, this is A. S. Bryant at her best.

The author of Possession returns to the territory of her bestselling novel in two breathtaking fictions that explore the social and psychic landscape of Victorian England. Set in a proper country house with undercurrents of brutality and at a seance where historical figures yearn for one another, these works remind us of Byatt's powers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Byatt revisits the Victorian landscape of Possession in these two fluid and intricate novellas. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This work consists of two novellas set in the mid-19th century. The first, ``Morpho Eugenia,'' is a Gothic fable that explores the multiple themes of earthly paradise and Darwin's theories of breeding and sexuality. There is an implied parallel between insect and human society throughout. The hero, a poor, scholarly entomologist, is taken into a wealthy Victorian family. His life and loves, particularly for the daughter Eugenia and the eponymous species of butterfly, comprise this tale. The second novella, ``The Conjugal Angel,'' is reminiscent of Possession ( LJ 11/1/90), Byatt's 1990 Booker Prize winner for fiction, wherein poetry is woven into the narrative. Here, the poem is Tennyson's ``In Memoriam , '' written to mourn the death of Tennyson's friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who was engaged to the poet's sister Emily--a main character here. This is a philosophical ghost story, bizarre and comic, but since assorted mediums meet real characters, it is difficult to relate to any of them. These novellas will attract attention due to the fame of their author, but they will appeal to a very limited audience. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/92.-- Patricia C. Heaney, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679751342
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1994
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 938,854
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

A.S. Byatt is the author of the novels Possession (winner of the Booker Prize in 1990), The Game, and the sequence The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, and Babel Tower. She has also written two novellas, published together as Angels and Insects, and four collections of shorter works, including The Matisse Stories and The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye. Educated at Cambridge, she was a senior lecturer in English at University College, London, before becoming a full-time writer in 1983. A distinguished critic as well as a novelist, she lives in London.

Biography

A. S. Byatt, author of the Booker Prize-winning Possession, is internationally acclaimed as a novelist, short story writer and critic. Her most recent fiction outside this tetralogy is The Biographer's Tale, a novel, and Elementals, a collection of short stories. She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1999.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Antonia Susan Drabble Byatt (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      London, England; France
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 24, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Sheffield, England
    1. Education:
      B.A., Newnham College, Cambridge, 1957; graduate study at Bryn Mawr College and Somerville College

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2001

    Mesmerizing!

    A. S. Byatt, once again, proves to be an extremely talented novelist, with her passion for biology, history, and spirituality. 'Angels & Insects,' which is my favorite book by A. S. Byatt, deals with subjects that might seem odd to us, 'contemporary' people living in the twenty first century. It is nevertheless an amazing novel, one that might give birth to the very deep thoughts, and one that might force you to draw analogies between us and the world of nature. 'Morpho Eugenia,' my favorite of the two novellas, tells us about a shipwrecked naturalist, who, having returned from the Amazon, finds himself 'taken in' by an aristocratic family whose members are compared to insects. I must confess that I loved that novella at once, although I did think that all that bug talk was getting pretty boring. I am, however, into entomology, so it didn't seem that bad to me, but some people may find it long and gratuitous. Anyway, 'Morpho Eugenia' is a magical novella, one that strikes you with its luscious prose and poems, and beautiful love and nature scenes. I especially loved the butterfly scene where Eugenia stood in a cloud of moths, which 'flittered' and 'danced' around her head, and her 'outstretched hands.' The last of the two 'pictures' in the end is absolutely unforgettable- dealing with the healing of the heart and a new beginning. The second novella, 'The Conjugial Angel,' tells us about the relationship between Alfred Tennyson and Arthur Hallam. If you don't know much about the authors of the Victorian era, and if you are not interested in spiritualism, then this novella is certainly not for you. I guess that you have to be a 'Victorian literature lover' to appreciate these beautiful tales about the people who might have had the same problems and choices that are before us now. I would recommend this book to anybody who loves Wilkie Collins, Sharlotte Bronte, and Jane Austen.

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    Posted December 3, 2008

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    Posted October 13, 2013

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