Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Angels and Insects” as Want to Read:
Angels and Insects
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Angels and Insects

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  4,045 ratings  ·  223 reviews
In these breathtaking novellas, A.S. Byatt returns to the territory she explored in Possession: the landscape of Victorian England, where science and spiritualism are both popular manias, and domestic decorum coexists with brutality and perversion. Angels and Insects is "delicate and confidently ironic.... Byatt perfectly blends laughter and sympathy [with] extraordinary s ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 29th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1992)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Angels and Insects, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Angels and Insects

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel FaberFingersmith by Sarah WatersPossession by A.S. ByattA Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba BrayTipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Best Victorian Historical Fiction Set In Britain
26th out of 186 books — 482 voters
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Best Historical Fiction
498th out of 5,395 books — 20,892 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
A S Byatt goes back again to the Victorian era she writes about so well and has put two novellas together. “Morpho Eugenia” and “The Conjugial Angel”. Both are well written and as always Byatt makes excellent use of poetry; especially Tennyson’s In Memoriam in the second novella.
Morpho Eugenia (the Latin name for a South American moth) is about William Adamson and Amazonian explorer who has returned and is consulting with Lord Alabaster, a cleric who is also obsessed with moths, butterflies, ins
Angels and Insects is comprised of two novellas. Morpho Eugenia is the first of such and within it, the hero states, "You may argue anything at all by analogy, Sir, and so consequently nothing." This deft piece had me cheering for Matty Crompton, a real badass, and pondering these lengthy explorations into entomology as a reflection for Victorian (or our own) folly. As noted, I saw the film almost 20 years ago and was prepared for the development which lists the plot akimbo. Such didn't leave th ...more
Entomologia e vita , e digressioni filosofiche sulla immortalità dell' anima e sulla poesia con tanto di sedute spiritiche... Patapam!

In effetti potrei limitare il mio punto di vista s questo romanzo a queste due singole righe, ma vorrei andare un pochino più a fondo ...

Come improvvisamente si decide di abbandonare le due noiosissime ore di fisica e di darsi all' entomologia: ma non verrebbe anche a voi la voglia di farlo , quando vedete che il vostro professore invece di spiegare legge le scont
Prendete un esemplare della sottoscritta in statuetta, miniatura, quello che vi pare, e rinchiudetela in una mini-gabbia completamente murata.
No, fermi. Prima metteteci dentro una semplice farfalla.
Noterete che alla vostra mini-Anastasia si rizzeranno i peli delle braccia, se state guardando attentamente noterete che scatta sulla difensiva e rimane immobile a guardare i minimi movimenti della compagna di cella, la farfalla, e vedete che strabuzzerà gli occhi con diversi cipigli ne
Christopher H.
A.S. Byatt, with Angels & Insects, has created a rich and complex book comprised of two medium-length novellas set in the mid-1860s and 1870s, both of which address themes important to the people of the Victorian Era. The first novella, Morpho Eugenia focuses on the relationships between a family, its friends, servants, and the natural world around them in the English countryside. The tale pivots around the study of society and nature, and then there's the tension and struggle between theolo ...more
The Eleventh Hour
Hmmm. I'm really torn about this book. On the one hand, the writing was excellent. On the other, it was very bizarre. Lots of insect imagery and themes in the first story, Morpho Eugenia. I felt it was…too much, however.

Although the writing itself was exquisite, I just think I don’t like A.S. Byatt’s style very well. She has a way of telling stories that I find to be very off-putting. She’ll start the story - getting the narrative ball rolling and making me like all of the characters - and then
Kristina A
I quickly skimmed the first page of the other reader reviews of this book and discovered that my opinion in comparing the two novellas that comprise it is opposite of most readers. It seems most readers (from the top page, at least) prefer the first novella, "Morpho Eugenia" (the "Insects" section) to "The Conjugal Angel" (the "Angels" section).

For me, "Morpho Eugenia" was a little disappointing. I don't always need to be surprised by what I read, but the characters in this novella were a bit to
There are very few authors in my mind that even come close to having the command of language Byatt has and, rarer still, she is an author that credits her reader with as much intelligence as she herself possesses.

That being said, "Angels and Insects" just didn't deliver for me. It's wonderfully written (of course) but it didn't quite enrapture me the way Byatt's other novels and short stories, in particular, have.

There are two novellas within the book which explore, in turn, the Victorian fascin
It took me a long, long time to read this. It was dense, and had characters that seemed flat and lifeless due to being secondary to the message the author was exploring. I get that the Insects were a metaphor for mankind, but exploring that took too long and just wasn't enough to hold my interests for an entire story.

This is two stories in one, the first I pushed through and read all of, the second I started and got lost from the very first sentence. They have wings. They're doing seances (my le
This is a beautifully written book. The first story concerns a man who, shipwrecked, finds a new home with a collector of specimens from such places as the Amazon; the man becomes entangled in the family, inevitably uncovering some dirty secrets, all the while trying to find his purpose. There's some philosophical musing, and several long digressions on ants, as well as extensive excerpts from contemporary literature, religious works etc. I would have preferred fewer excerpts and more original t ...more
Moses Kilolo
Life does get busy sometimes...

But in the midst of it all to curl up with a book like Angels and Insects is a pure delight. I must confess that A.S. Byatt is a favorite of mine, and I came in these novellas expecting a lot, of sensuousness in words, of depth in insight and mystery in story telling. I got more - in fact, about possibly everything, death, life, love and betrayal, and the afterlife, and so much more. Which all made me pause in awe, what a fine mind this lady has...

The first novella
These are two novellas in one volume. The first one Morpho Eugenia, was made into an esthetically stunning I thought Angels and Insects movie in 1995. I was really fond of the movie when it came out but haven't seen it since. The book was a nice review of it, plus. Really nicely written, clever novel of ideas, very skillfully woven to be satisfying at both intellectual and emotional levels.
On the other hand, I couldn't get into the second novella at all. Like the first one, it's also set in Vi
Must be completely honest - I've read "Angels & Insects" halfway - just can't get through "The Conjugal Angel" it's just brutally weird. My eyes read the words but my brain goes "Aggh! Can't compute - the names, the plot, the details, aggh- they just don't work!" I do love the first story - the characters of William and Amy and Matty come through clear as a bell. Just rip the book in half, place the first half on your must-read-again shelf and the last on the maybe-on-a-long-weekend-and-ther ...more
Morpho Eugenia is an amazing piece of literary craftsmanship. It reads straight through as a great romance story and family drama. In hindsight everything shifts into another register. Byatt composed extensive passages of scientific and ethical dialogues that read like quotations from the Victorian period. They're preoccupied with Victorian concerns but Byatt uses them to construct a very contemporary post-modern dialogue on the limitations of analogy and anthropocentrism. And they do triple dut ...more
The first, "Morpho Eugenia", was... interesting. Byatt was playing, quite heavy-handedly, with notions of whiteness, civilisation, and purity. It's very obvious that she was doing it on purpose - the rich English countryfolk whom Our Hero falls in with are the family of Lord and Lady Alabaster. You don't pull that trick accidentally. And she did manage to write a story about a Victorian-era explorer of the Amazon who's fixated on the whiteness of his whitepeople hosts without, so far as I could ...more
Ms Tlaskal
I read this in French and for a very literary author it was surprisingly easy to read. Could be the translation, or more likely the wonderfully clear, limpid writing that holds you spellbound. It is set in late Victorian times and deals with one of the passions of the age; collecting specimens of the natural world and classifying them as meticulously as their own society was ordered. Unfortunately for the hero William, he is pinned by poverty upon the whims of the wealthy Alabaster family who sn ...more
This book contains two novellas, "Morpho Eugenia" and "The Conjugal Angel." The first is a suspenseful and shocking Gothic tale of a young man's gradual enlightenment about the depths of depravity in his wife's family. The second is a comic and whimsical story of Alfred Lord Tennyson's sister Emily at a seance (which was an extremely popular thing to do in the 19th century) meeting up with the spirit of Arthur Henry Hallam, the person her brother mourned in his famous poem, "In Memoriam."

The jo
Apr 27, 2010 Aeron is currently reading it
I started this book in Paris, where my mother handed it down to me. I was hot on the heels of The Children's Book, and eager for more Byatt. Truth be told, I was desperate. You know how it is. Worse than drugs.

I hadn't even finished the first story, which - while interesting - wasn't as compelling as The Children's Book, when somehow the plastic glass by my bedside table developed a crack and slowly leaked out all the water over the course of the night. The sun peaked in through the curtains, wo
перша частина – «морфо євгенія» – тягне навіть на четвірку, є в ній шось дивовижно красиве й водночас цинічне, шо іноді можна знайти в маргарет атвуд, наприклад. тільки повість водночас рефлексивно-вікторіанська, й думається більше про фаулза, але це ненав'язливі такі, хороші думки.
із другою в мене не склалося, може, там просто забагато тенісона й сведенборга; хоча сама задумка альтернативної історії – от майже як повість про емілі дікінсон і волта вітмена в «стімпанку» ді філіппо – дуже симпати
Very impressed. Byatt has clearly sold her soul to the devil. That said, it must be conceded that these stories are not for the impatient. Not everyone is going to be charmed by endless descriptions of ant activity, Tennyson's poetry, Swedenborgian theology, and a somewhat unremarkable fable "written" by one of the characters, but everything comes together so neatly, you finally have to stand up and applaud. Best of all, both stories conclude with happy, dare I say exuberant, endings. This writi ...more
Beautiful! I love the coherence between this book and Possession. I love how A.S. Byatt's writing fuses poetry and prose. I love the times in which her stories take place. That's all I have to say.
Anthony Peter
I had some trouble with 'The Conjugial Angel' but enjoyed 'Morpho Eugenia'. I found the former was intellectually more of a strain, though I may find myself saying that because I know and understand more about Darwin (central to 'Morpho') than I do about Swedenborg (central to 'Conjugial'). I found the long passages discussing Swedenborg's thoughts about angels and the dead pretty dull and although the narrative was stuffed with the tensions existing between Mrs Papagay and her would be wooer, M ...more
Darren Keung
Not one but two books. The first story Morpho Eugenia is set in the 19th century. It's plot is a transparent intrigue centred upon family liasions, however this should be viewed as a ploy. The main character is a collector of insects and a particular interest in the nest and colonial social behavior of ants is developed. What follows is an interesting exploration of the theme of social order that unfortunately doesn't quite hit the mark. One can't help but compare to TH White's "once and future ...more
Angels and Insects by A.S. Byatt

There are some aspects of this book that I loved:
The references to and discussions about God, Christ, religion are thought provoking.
The astonishing life of insects, ants and butterflies brought into the book, where we learn so much about the queens, we see thousands of butterflies.
The presence of native people, who have some very interesting and odd behaviors: for instance, when the explorers reach New Zealand and the local people act as if they do not see heir r
I read the first half, Morpho Eugenia, and found it predictable and pretentious. The author digresses into lengthy descriptions of insect life and inserts pseudo fairy tales, which are extremely symbolic but don't forward the plot at all. In the end it seems these passages were shoehorned into the story, which would have kept movement and flow had they been taken out. Some of the prose is gorgeous, and the characters are convincingly Victorian, but I couldn't bring myself to read the second half ...more
NOT A REVIEW: I am floored. This is writing of the highest caliber. I love the way Byatt builds a plot. The elements and events combine in such a natural way that, when the crisis comes, I think, "That is perfect." I do so love an author who draws so greedily from Tennyson and Dante. Tennyson is indeed a character in the latter novella of this pair, his friends and relations being main characters. Brava!
La Petite Américaine
Jul 29, 2008 La Petite Américaine rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one! IT'S MINE! :)
Shelves: kicked_ass
This has been my favorite book forever. Well, since I was 17. I won't go back and reread it because I'm afraid I won't like it as much. I prefer to keep it the way it is in my mind: sacred, frickin amazing book.

Uh ... bugs, ant-farms, incest, shipwrecks, spiritual groups, love and all that fun stuff?

From IMDb:
The movie is a study of an aristocratic family in the Victorian England. William Adamson, a young scientist, is introduced into the aristocratic family Alabaster by reverend Alabaster who is also fascinated by insects. William marries the older daughter of the family and studies the amounts of insects in the garden of the villa. His - for the aristocrats - strange behaviours reveal at the same time their own failures and passions. Written by Volker Boehm

Director: Philip Haas

Stars: Mark
Nov 09, 2012 Andy added it
Although I found this book to contain some interesting subtext regarding science and the supernatural, it was a hideous read. The characters were not the slightest bit relatable or interesting and the writing was tremendously boring.

Theres my review, bro
This book comprises two novellas set in 19th century England. The first novella is about an English entomologist returning to his home country after ten years in Amazonia soon after Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species. He marries into an aristocratic family, which looks uncannily more like a colony of eusocial insects than a human family, to his horror, in ways he never expected. Myrmecologist and sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson once said, "Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Summer Will Show
  • Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets
  • English Music
  • Crimson Peak: The Official Movie Novelization
  • The Birds Fall Down
  • City of the Mind
  • The Crowded Street
  • The Frozen Thames
  • Wise Children
  • Seven Gothic Tales
  • Set in Stone
  • All Day Permanent Red: The First Battle Scenes of Homer's Iliad Rewritten
  • Freedom and Necessity
  • The World and Other Places: Stories
  • Vanessa and Virginia
  • Emma Brown
  • The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England
  • Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood
A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize winner Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Ey ...more
More about A.S. Byatt...

Share This Book

“She sat beside him on the bench, and her presence troubled him. He was inside the atmosphere, or light, or scent she spread, as a boat is inside the drag of a whirlpool, as a bee is caught in the lasso of perfume from the throat of a flower.” 5 likes
“You wrote something easily in youth, and later you came to see how difficult it all was.” 0 likes
More quotes…