Phoenix £7.95 (228pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Byron in Love, By Edna O' Brien
Friday 12 February 2010
Nearly 200 years after Byron's death, writers and dramatists are still in his thrall. Benjamin Markovitz's recent novel, A Quiet Adjustment, recreated the poet's brief marriage to Anabella Milbanke. Then last year came Rupert Everett's flirtatious televised homage, involving dressing up and stripping down. Edna O'Brien, a writer naturally drawn to matters romantic, says that her own interest was first whetted by a remark of Lady Blessington that he was "the most extraordinary and terrifying person [she had] ever met." That, and the fact that she likes the idea of "writers writing about other artists."
While O'Brien's succinct and readable account doesn't offer any radical reappraisal of the poet's life, her novelistic flair lends the well- rehearsed events a fresh drama. Part way through the book, the author is so transported by her story that she plunges recklessly into the present tense. Tellingly, the occasion is Byron's reunion with his half sister, Augusta Leigh, a woman who "seems to understand him as no previous woman had."
Not one to dawdle, having dealt with her subject's fractured childhood, O'Brien progresses post-haste to Byron's "Childe Harold" years and on to his miserable demise in a Greek swamp. Despite the book's contention that Byron is Everyman ("human, ambitious, erratic, generous, destructive, dazzling, dark and dissonant"), it's clear that history's most notorious poet and erotomane was mostly in love with himself and, at a pinch, his sister.
Arts & Ents blogs
St Patrick’s Day 2014: The worst ever Irish accents in film history
Under The Skin, film review: Scarlett Johansson is full-blooded as femme fatale alien
Best films on Netflix: 32 movies that will put an end to your scrolling
Lord of the Flies is still a blueprint for savagery
Game of Thrones star Sibel Kekilli wants more male nudity in the show
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
- 1 Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
- 2 Exclusive: World’s most pristine waters are polluted by US Navy human waste
- 3 Pakistani gang rape victim Amina Bibi dies after setting herself on fire
- 4 Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Jet ‘hijacking’ began soon after take-off
- 5 'Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 plane found in Bermuda Triangle!' Viral Facebook links are profiting hackers