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Angels and Insects

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  3,720 ratings  ·  204 reviews
These two fascinating novellas, like A. S. Byatt's Booker Prize-winning novel Possession, are set in the mid-nineteenth century, weaving fact and fiction, reality and romance. "Morpho Eugenia" is a lively Gothic fable of the Earthly Paradise, of the Victorian obsession with Darwinian theories of breeding and sexuality and the parallels between insect and human society - th ...more
Paperback, 337 pages
Published March 29th 1994 by Vintage Books (first published 1992)
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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
22nd out of 171 books — 421 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
465th out of 4,514 books — 18,008 voters

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Community Reviews

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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
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
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.
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?

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
Everyone else seems more impressed by the title story, but I love "The Conjugal Angel" best.
Morpho Eugenia 2 stars, The Conjugial Angel 4 stars.

I actually finished this a few days ago, but I wanted to wait until I had time to post a review of it.

The premise: Angels and Insects is actually two novellas, loosely linked to each other: Morpho Eugenia and The Conjugial Angel.

The good: A. S. Byatt's writing style is as exquisite as ever- no one can write the Victorians like she can (aside from the actual Victorians). The Conjugial Angel in particular is a really fantastic work, that builds
Clever, interesting stories with unexpected plot twists along the way, but the explorations of the intellectual debates of the Victorian Era slowed the pace to a near crawl and the poetic insertions added next to nothing to the plot other than delaying things further. The first story focuses on the study of insects, and the affect of Darwinism on both science and theology, juxtaposed with the story of a young suitor, a wealthy family, and all the drama that ensues when you combine the two. The s ...more
"The world looked different, and larger, and brighter, not water-colour washes of green and blue and grey, but a dazzling pattern of fine lines and dizzying pinpoints, jet-black, striped and spotted crimson, iridescent emerald, sloppy caramel, slime-silver."

"There is a kind of tree called the Sipo Matador--which translates, the Murderer Sipo--which grows tall and thin like a creeper and clings to another tree, to make its way up the thirty, forty feet to the canopy, eating its way into the very
I've given myself a day between finishing this collection of two novellas and writing a review. I'm conflicted in my overall experience, but looking back I realize just how profound it really was for me.

A.S. Byatt is a magnificent writer. I was constantly caught off guard by how shockingly beautiful many of her sentences were. This is a great book to read on an electronic reading device, unless you don't mind highlighting wonderful tidbits in your physical copy! And of course the actual plots o
Emily Green
A.S. Byatt, though arguably a genius, does not put forth as impressive an effort in Angels & Insects as she does in Possession and The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye. Angels & Insects is comprised of two novellas, “Morpho Eugenia” and “The Conjugal Angel.” Both are set in England, in the past, and contain a certain amount of betrayal by lovers.
“Morpho Eugenia,” the tale of an explorer stuck in civilized country due to lack of money who falls in love with a woman he assumes is civilized,
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A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize-winning 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 E ...more
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Possession The Children's Book The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye The Virgin in the Garden Babel Tower

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“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
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