This book is an incredible interweaving of two romances- one, which is revealed through uncovered letters and poems, is of an illicit affair between two 19th century poets, the other is the growing love between the 20th century scholars researching the lives of their predecessors. The author writes poems for the dead lovers (in the style of Browning for the man and Christina Rosseti for the woman) that provide clues to the nature of the relationship in a very unusual and creative way. As the past is uncovered there is a certain amount of mystery interwoven which adds an interesting and unique element of suspense to the book. The characters are myriad and the overall development is exceptional. This book is well deserving of the awards and attention it has received.
This report prepared by Wendy Reilly
Like many unique works, this award-winning 1990 novel defies categories. I couldn't define a "main character" or "time period," because the story gives equal weight to a pair of obscure English poets (male and female) in the 19th century and a pair of English academics (male and female) tracking them down in the late 20th. This romance/historical novel also transcends genres: Byatt concocts original poetry by each of the 19th century characters, and presents a lot of their delicate, personal correspondence for the modern couple to study. The latter are in turn warily drawn to each other as well. It's a dramatic tour-de-force presented in rich and allusive language.
This report prepared by David Loftus