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Angels and Insects

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  4,414 Ratings  ·  252 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)
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Sep 22, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: victorian-novels
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
May 26, 2016 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'My name', she said, 'is Matilda. Up here at night there is no Matty. Only Matilda. Look at Me.'

The above is dialogue from the book's first novella, Morpho Eugenia, and eerily echoes a recent read of mine, which eerily echoed another novel I read not too long ago. While an overall theme of Morpho Eugenia is the dichotomy between the male protagonist's present life with a Victorian English family and his past experiences in the Amazon, Matty/Matilda is revealed as a patient, reckoning forc
May 04, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Teresa
As a fourth read from her, this helps confirm Byatt as among my favorite authors. All complex, rich, and mesmerizing. This pair of novellas was published together in 1992, soon after Booker Prize winner “Possession.” The blurb on the cover did a good job hooking me (and mystifying me with semi-spoilers in distorted compression):

The shipwrecked naturalist who is the protagonist of “Morpho Eugenia” is rescued by a family whose clandestine passions come to seem as inscrutable as the behavior of ins
May 23, 2013 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
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
Sep 14, 2014 Anastasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-2012
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
Nov 24, 2012 Lucrezia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
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
Apr 24, 2012 Vorbis rated it it was ok
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
Kristina A
Aug 11, 2009 Kristina A rated it really liked it
Shelves: neo-victorian
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
May 16, 2016 Magdelanye rated it it was amazing
loved this so with all I've read of her so far, worth the work.
Feb 19, 2015 Rage rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
Apr 29, 2013 Moses Kilolo rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 22, 2012 Highlyeccentric rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-for-fun
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
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
Apr 08, 2013 Tita rated it really liked it
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
Jan 19, 2016 David rated it liked it
The rating and review only pertain to the first novella, Morpho Eugenia I was interested to read Morpho Eugenia because I watched the film adaptation "Angels and Insects". The film was a very faithful adaptation of the novella, meaning that reading the book after seeing the movie took away any suspense and intrigue their might have been. The writing style is enjoyable and very evocative of the Victorian setting, but the pacing is strange. The narrative is often interrupted by poems or texts (fic ...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
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
May 02, 2011 verbava rated it liked it
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
Jan 01, 2010 Michelle rated it it was ok
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
Dec 16, 2011 Paul rated it it was amazing
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
May 29, 2009 RunRachelRun rated it really liked it
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
Aug 28, 2015 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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!
Sep 22, 2014 Jaime rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Tatyana Naumova
Nov 01, 2016 Tatyana Naumova rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
"Морфо Евгения" примерно в миллиард раз лучше другой части
Jul 31, 2012 Mely rated it really liked it
Everyone else seems more impressed by the title story, but I love "The Conjugal Angel" best.
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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 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
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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.” 11 likes
“You are accompanied through life, Emily Jesse occasionally understood, not only by the beloved and accusing departed, but by your own ghost too, also accusing, also unappeased.” 3 likes
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