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Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land by John…

Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land

by John Crowley

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Crowley is one of my favorite authors. I've read many of his books and enjoyed all them...[in progress]
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
A modern web designer who finds some manuscripts while researching Ada Lovelace finds out that they are encrypted. This is a novel within a novel within a novel. A very interesting book. I enjoyed it. It has mystery and drama and action and science. Lots of things happening. ( )
  stuart10er | Nov 5, 2013 |
Wow. Finally got to this. Revolves around the discovery of an old sea trunk in which are found, among other things, one page of nearly illegible scrawl (and if you know Byron's handwriting, you're immediately onto that clue) and many pages of numbers, apparently a cypher. Turns out Ada Byron has encoded her father's manuscript of a novel so that it will not, at her mother's and husband's insistence, be destroyed for all time. Ada undertook this massive project in the last year of her life when she knew she was dying (and knew what would become of her papers). She also wrote extensive notes to accompany the manuscript.

The third layer of story--of book within book within book--is of the discovery of the sea chest at the turn of the 21st century by the editor of a women-of-science website and her attempt to decypher the manuscript with the help of her lover (who's numerically inclined) and her estranged father (happily, a Byron scholar).

Many stories are told and retold here.... As an amateur Byron scholar myself (or, at least, a humble enthusiast), who's read any number of attempts to ventriloquize the poet's voice (usually in fictitious attempts to recreate the burnt memoirs), I've never felt before that I was conceivably in his company until now with "his" manuscript THE EVENING LAND. Crowley has really pulled it off.

I don't know what to think about readers coming to the book without extensive background on the Byrons.... Their story is told compellingly here, and that's probably enough. Without deeper biographical info, knowledge of the poetry and letters and journals, etc., Crowley's Byron manuscript can't resonate as deeply, but it's still a ripping yarn, and Crowley fills in a lot, so... I'm just not in a position to say. I loved it. ( )
  beaujoe | Mar 10, 2013 |
Crowley imagines what Byron would have written if Byron had written a novel. It's a semi-autobiographical story, full of Romantic and Gothic conventions. The novel is entirely convincing - it reads just like a novel of the period. There is also a frame story. Actually, two frame stories: at the end of each chapter, there are notes attributed to Ada Lovelace, who encrypted the novel in her last painful months while she was dying of cancer in an attempt to hide the novel from her mother. Meanwhile, we also read a series of emails sent to and from the woman who discovered the novel and who relies on her girlfriend to unencrypt it and her estranged father (a Byron expert) to explain its significance and help her understand the book.

The frame story works very well to fully expose the genius of Crowley's hypothetical Byron novel. To fully appreciate the novel, you really have to know a lot about Byron himself, and about the controversy over whether his personality was misunderstood or not. The frame stories also add another theme to the novel that would not be there otherwise - the theme of relationships between fathers and daughters. Ada Lovelace was a child when Byron died, and her mother tried to keep him away from her, so for her, reading and encrypting the novel is a way of getting to know her father and finding his qualities in herself. Smith, the woman who discovers the novel, gets in touch with her estranged father to understand it, and ends up learning about him and reconciling with him. In some ways this theme was a little underdeveloped - the daughters have a respect and love for their fathers, and a capacity to forgive them, that I'm not sure the fathers deserve. ( )
  Gwendydd | Feb 10, 2013 |
This is a story within a story within a story. One level is a novel, the next level is footnote anotations to the novel, the third level is the correspondence of the people involved in discovering and decoded the encrypted novel.

At it's heart is the 'lost' novel by Lord Byron. It is a fictionalized autobiography of Byron in the form of Ali, the half-Albanian son of a Lord Sane. The next level is the actual story of Lord Byron, his wife, and their daughter, Ada Byron Countess of Lovelace, told through Ada's footnotes on her father's novel and the commentary of the modern academics. The most modern shell is the story of Alexandra "Smith" Novak, the young academic who discovers the manuscript, and her relationship with her estranged father, told through her emails and letters with her lover, her father, her mother, and her employer.

Lord Byron's novel fictionalizes his story of his relationship with his wife and daughter. Ada Lovelace's footnotes to her father's novel, and the correspondence between Alexandra Novak and her father Lee Novak, inform the reader of the actual relationship between Lord Byron and his family. The story of Alexandra "Smith" Novak and her father shows how Byron's relationship with his daughter could have played out in our modern times. The result is three different versions of a man's relationship with his controlling wife and estranged daughter. Or alternatively a daughter's relationship with her controlling mother and estranged father.

I learned a lot about Lord Byron and Ada Lovelace. It is an interesting and literary story.

My P.S. edition of the book includes an interview with John Crowley by Nick Gevers:
Nick Gevers: Well, Lord Byron's Novel does have many very exciting elements one might associate with genre fiction: the atmosphere of the Oriental fantasy tale; ferocious combat among Albanian clansfolk; an ancient crumbling mansion; a mysterious murder; a zombie rescuer; smugglers; battle scenes; doppelgängers; somnambulant episodes; a global revolutionary brotherhood; and so forth. And a certain "Roony J. Welch" may just be quasi-immortal. . . . Is Lord Byron's novel an any significant sense a work of fantasy?

John Crowley: Well, I don't think Byron's novel is--as Ada points out, it may be sensational, wild, and fantastic, but there are no strictly supernatural elements in it. Is mine? I think that if a novel has no whiff at all of the impossible, the fabulous, the inexplicable, or the metaphysical as the Romantics meant the word, then it isn't very realistic, because the real (this, our shared physical and biological) world does have those intimations in it. (When the intimations become certainties you have fantasy.)

Everything that Gevers says about the book is true it does contain "ferocious combat among Albanian clansfolk; an ancient crumbling mansion; a mysterious murder; a zombie rescuer; smugglers; battle scenes; doppelgängers; somnambulant episodes; a global revolutionary brotherhood; and so forth".

Crowley's reply is also true. The real world does have intimations of "the impossible, the fabulous, the inexplicable, or the metaphysical". ( )
  sheherazahde | Feb 25, 2011 |
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Ada Byron was the daughter of the Romantic poet George Gordon, Lord Byron, and Anne Isabella Milbanke, who separated from Byron just a month after Ada was born.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060556587, Hardcover)

One of our most accomplished literary artists, John Crowley imagines the novel the haunted Romantic poet Lord Byron never penned ...but very well might have. Saved from destruction, read, and annotated by Byron's own abandoned daughter, Ada, the manuscript is rediscovered in our time -- and almost not recognized. Lord Byron's Novel is the story of a dying daughter's attempt to understand the famous father she longed for -- and the young woman who, by learning the secret of Byron's manuscript and Ada's devotion, reconnects with her own father, driven from her life by a crime as terrible as any of which Byron himself was accused.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:30 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"John Crowley turns his unique genius in a different direction to imagine the novel the great, haunted, and enigmatic Romantic poet Lord Byron never penned ... but very well might have." "Documents discovered in a rotting old trunk in an English storage room prove that the manuscript of a novel by Byron once existed, and that it was saved from destruction, read, and annotated by Ada, Countess of Lovelace, a brilliant mathematician and Byron's abandoned daughter, during the final, agonizing months of her young life. While the curious mystery of what became of the manuscript itself is explored, we are permitted to read it - the whole of Byron's only novel - beginning to end." "And what a novel it is - a thrilling romance chock-full of treacheries and deceits, loves and fortunes gloriously gained and tragically lost; a tale of blood, vengeance, and mystery, of thrilling escapes and ruthless murder. Yet in the story of Ali - the bastard son of the demonic Lord Sane, torn from his life in high Albania to be raised a proper, if penniless, English gentleman - Ada finds gripping revelations of its author's hidden character, and glimpses into the secrets of his soul." "Lord Byron's Novel weaves strands from different centuries into an extraordinary tapestry of loss and discovery, and the powerful, invisible threads that eternally bind parent to child. It is the story of a dying daughter's poignant attempt to understand the famous absent father she longed for to her last day, and the contemporary tale of the determined young woman who, by learning the secret of Byron's manuscript and Ada's devotion, reconnects with her own father, who was driven from her life by a crime as terrible as any Byron was accused of."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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