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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.

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061748646
List price: $9.99
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Ah, what an exquisite novel! Texts within text, a story from the past parallelling a story from the present, a gothic story in the mix ... what else can you ask for? Would I recommend it? Definitely, but not just to any reader: if you're a fan of Crowley's, yes. If you're a fan of gothic novels, yes. If you are a fan of the text within a text style of reading, yes. If you aren't any of these, probably not. The basis of the novel is that bad-guy Lord Byron (there is so much info on his character out there in cyber space that I'll leave you to find it) did write masses of poetry but never a major work of prose. So when an historian of science, Alexandra Novak (also known as Smith in the novel) comes across a carefully-encrypted cipher purportedly from Ada Lovelace (Byron's daughter), she begins to wonder if indeed what she has is a never-before known novel written by Byron. It seems that Ada was a devotee of Babbage, who invented a system much like today's computer, or its precursor with punch cards, and based on that knowledge, plus the bizarre structure of the cypher and some written notes, Alex and her partner Thea Swann, a mathematician, decode the cypher and what they have is a very strange story, told in gothic tones of Byron's time. Along the way Alex uncovers some of Ada's thoughts about her father, from whom she was estranged early in life, and her discoveries parallel things she finds out about her father, from whom she was also estranged as a child. An excellent novel, and the story within the story kept me reading throughout the day. I highly recommend this one.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A novel with three levels: Byron's putative novel "The Evening Land"; notes on the "novel" by his daughter, and pioneer computer programmer, Ada Augusta's; and email correspondence between three present-day researchers as they piece together "The Evening Land" and the story of its creation and transmission. I found Byron's novel, and Ada's notes, fascinating: John Crowley is a wonderful writer, and proves as effective at pastiche of Byron as he is writing in his usual style. The only thing that stops me giving this novel five stars is that I didn't find the present-day, outer framing story as compelling as the two inner stories. Still highly recommended, however.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Fantastic book, one of my very favorites--I managed to get my hands on an ARC, devoured it in an evening and a morning. It's a bizarre sort of epistolary novel, sweeping and generous.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I thought that this was an interesting experiment. At the outset I found it a little difficult to read but I did keep with it and was glad I did in the end. The combination of the two stories never quite meld properly but it really is a good attempt. If you are a fan of Byron it is probably worth the read. For someone who is not familiar with Byron ot his works this one may be a little difficult to grasp.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Crowley beautifully imagines the novel that Byron began (but never finished) the night that Mary Shelley began Frankenstein, then frames it with notes from Byron's estranged daughter Ada AND correspondence between modern-day historians. Wonderfully literate and complex.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Similar thematically to The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines. Very enjoyable. I found myself slightly less interested in the invented novel than in the contemporary e-mail frame of the story. I had to do some searching to find out what it meant but when I did, I was amused by Crowley's wink to the reader in the final pages.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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 and so is Crowley's reply.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

Ah, what an exquisite novel! Texts within text, a story from the past parallelling a story from the present, a gothic story in the mix ... what else can you ask for? Would I recommend it? Definitely, but not just to any reader: if you're a fan of Crowley's, yes. If you're a fan of gothic novels, yes. If you are a fan of the text within a text style of reading, yes. If you aren't any of these, probably not. The basis of the novel is that bad-guy Lord Byron (there is so much info on his character out there in cyber space that I'll leave you to find it) did write masses of poetry but never a major work of prose. So when an historian of science, Alexandra Novak (also known as Smith in the novel) comes across a carefully-encrypted cipher purportedly from Ada Lovelace (Byron's daughter), she begins to wonder if indeed what she has is a never-before known novel written by Byron. It seems that Ada was a devotee of Babbage, who invented a system much like today's computer, or its precursor with punch cards, and based on that knowledge, plus the bizarre structure of the cypher and some written notes, Alex and her partner Thea Swann, a mathematician, decode the cypher and what they have is a very strange story, told in gothic tones of Byron's time. Along the way Alex uncovers some of Ada's thoughts about her father, from whom she was estranged early in life, and her discoveries parallel things she finds out about her father, from whom she was also estranged as a child. An excellent novel, and the story within the story kept me reading throughout the day. I highly recommend this one.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A novel with three levels: Byron's putative novel "The Evening Land"; notes on the "novel" by his daughter, and pioneer computer programmer, Ada Augusta's; and email correspondence between three present-day researchers as they piece together "The Evening Land" and the story of its creation and transmission. I found Byron's novel, and Ada's notes, fascinating: John Crowley is a wonderful writer, and proves as effective at pastiche of Byron as he is writing in his usual style. The only thing that stops me giving this novel five stars is that I didn't find the present-day, outer framing story as compelling as the two inner stories. Still highly recommended, however.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Fantastic book, one of my very favorites--I managed to get my hands on an ARC, devoured it in an evening and a morning. It's a bizarre sort of epistolary novel, sweeping and generous.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I thought that this was an interesting experiment. At the outset I found it a little difficult to read but I did keep with it and was glad I did in the end. The combination of the two stories never quite meld properly but it really is a good attempt. If you are a fan of Byron it is probably worth the read. For someone who is not familiar with Byron ot his works this one may be a little difficult to grasp.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Crowley beautifully imagines the novel that Byron began (but never finished) the night that Mary Shelley began Frankenstein, then frames it with notes from Byron's estranged daughter Ada AND correspondence between modern-day historians. Wonderfully literate and complex.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Similar thematically to The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines. Very enjoyable. I found myself slightly less interested in the invented novel than in the contemporary e-mail frame of the story. I had to do some searching to find out what it meant but when I did, I was amused by Crowley's wink to the reader in the final pages.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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 and so is Crowley's reply.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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