Praise for Man of Genius:
"“Mesmerizing, haunting, imbued with a complete sense of historical verisimilitude” Times Literary Supplement
"This is a haunting, sophisticated story about a woman slowly discovering the truth about herself and the elusive, possibly illusive, nature of genius." Sunday Times-London
“Todd has crafted a psychologically haunting and disturbing tale as full of mystery, exotic foreign places, and questions of parentage as any penned by her protagonist, whose journey back to understanding and shaky self-reliance (after a fortuitous rescue by a mysterious stranger) is almost antigothic in its conclusion. Devotees of Ann Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolpho) and other authors of the gothic literary tradition will enjoy this atmospheric novel.” -Library Journal
Foreword – one of eight titles showcased in Debut Fiction ForeSight
"This book is recommended for readers who enjoy the twists and turns of a gothic novel with emotional heart and depth.Ann begins to discover more about not only Robert, but herself. It is this self-discovery, this uncovering of her own narrative, that finally pushes her into an independent role that is both thrilling and heartbreaking to witness." Foreword Reviews
"Todd’s academic expertise on women writers and the Romantic period serves her well in this gripping, original historical novel with abundant thrills, spills and revelations. A powerful sense of atmosphere is conjured up through Todd’s detailed descriptions, whether the setting is 1819 Regency London or Venice, while the vivid depiction of everyday life’s ephemera, the racy dialogue and elaborate mannerisms, all sound and feel authentic."
“Strange and haunting, a gothic novel with a modern consciousness.” Philippa Gregory
"A quirky, darkly mischievous novel about love, obsession and the burden of charisma, played out against the backdrop of Venice's watery, decadent glory." Sarah Dunant
‘A mesmerizing story of love and obsession in nineteenth century Venice: dark and utterly compelling."
"Intriguing and entertaining; a clever, beguiling debut.Todd knows her Venice backwards."
“Revealing, surprising, compelling, gripping.” Miriam Margolyes, actress
‘A real knack for language with some jaw-droppingly luscious dialogue. I can see the author’s pedigree in the story, style, and substance of the book. It seems like a wonderful sleeper: think The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ – Geoffrey Jennings, Rainy Day Books
Todd’s academic expertise on women writers and the Romantic period serves her well in this gripping, original historical novel with abundant thrills, spills and revelations.
Ann (perhaps a nod to Ann Radcliffe), the independent-minded protagonist, is a writer of successful, melodramatic, populist Gothic novels featuring innocent women pursued by manipulative villains. She falls head over heels into an obsessive passion for narcissistic, Romantic idealist and poet Robert James (a cross between Shelley and Lord Byron). His self-acknowledged genius conceals the darkness of madness and violence, as she discovers in Venice. Forced to flee or be consumed by this destructive relationship, she makes major discoveries about her psychological and social identity, like the typical heroine of her own and others’ Gothic novels.
A powerful sense of atmosphere is conjured up through Todd’s detailed descriptions, whether the setting is 1819 Regency London or Venice, while the vivid depiction of everyday life’s ephemera, the racy dialogue and elaborate mannerisms, all sound and feel authentic.
Praise for Janet Todd
“Todd has a good ear for tone and a deep understanding an astonishingly thorough book” Emma Donoghue
“A rip-roaring read”, Michele Roberts, The Sunday Times
‘Genuinely original’ Antonia Fraser, The Times
“Thorough and stimulating…..clear readable prose.... a fascinating study of the public face of Behn, of its shifting masks and modes.’ Maureen Duffy, Literary Review
“Todd is one of the foremost feminist literary historians writing in this country. She has devoted her literary career to recovering the lives and works of women writers overlooked and disparaged by generations of male literary scholars’ Times Literary Supplement
“Intelligent and well-formed study” Kirkus
“Todd guides us with unfailing buoyancy and a wit all her own through the intricacies of Restoration theatre and politics...[Behn’s] epitaph seems to suggest her wit is buried with her. Not at all; it is now wondrously resurrected”, Michael Foot, Evening Standard
“Janet Todd's brilliant biography ... weaves a story together …with precision, verve and confidence” Independent
“Todd is an extraordinary researcher and sophisticated critic. This biography conjures a vivid sense of Wollstonecraft as a revolutionary and as a woman, and offers precise insights into the progress of one writer’s life.” Ruminator
In 1819 London, a writer of gothic novels is caught up in a plot of desire, compulsion, and revenge. Ann St Clair has long made a living writing cheap, sensational novels for popular consumption. She's unmarried and approaching middle age, but she's established an independent life for herself: she pays for her rooms and her pleasant life without support from anyone. Then, at a dinner party, Ann meets a charismatic figure: Robert James, writer of a fragment of text considered brilliant by his small but reverential pack of followers. Ann finds herself entranced by Robert and swallowed up by his social circle. They begin an affair, but, after a while, Ann notices Robert becoming increasingly paranoid and erratic in his behavior. When he insists on leaving England, the pair travels to Venice. There, Robert only degenerates further, and Ann struggles to support him. This is the first novel by Todd, a formidable scholar of writers, including Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen, and former president of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. It's an ambitious work that draws ties between its heroine's inner state, the occupation of Venice, and the torrid gossip then arising around Princess Caroline and the soon-to-be King George. But Todd's storytelling is jagged and uneven, and the narrative proceeds in fits and starts. The historical context is rich but might not be immediately accessible to the casual reader. Finally, it's difficult to sympathize with Todd's characters. Robert's theoretical discourses might be impressive to his followers, but they come across as obtuse almost to the point of nonsense. Then he becomes so grotesque so quickly that it's hard to understand Ann's feelings for him—indeed, her obsession with him. Once he becomes violent and mad, why, exactly, does she feel so powerless to leave him? Todd's work is replete with history, politics, and even philosophy, but her characters seem to lack nuance and are occasionally flat. A historical novel with a compelling premise falters in its execution.