Eddie Watkins's Reviews > Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land

Lord Byron's Novel by John Crowley
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's review
May 01, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: american-fiction

A fine and thoroughly disappointing novel.

It is virtually devoid of the mystery and depth of meaning of Crowley's best novels, which I consider to be Little, Big and the Aegypt series.

Technically, it is a marvel, and the mock Byron novel is a rip-roaring read, and even the email exchanges among the principal contemporary characters are interesting; but the book as a whole is terribly predictable (the Byron novel itself being predictably unpredictable). Considering that the novel includes an account of intense literary sleuthing, there is no suspense or sense of discovery. From the beginning you know that the Byron novel has been found, so the sense of excitement the characters feel and express in their email exchanges is totally defused en route to the reader.

The book does explore the nature of self, but for Crowley in a very simplistic dualistic fashion (Byron (or rather his alter-ego in the novel-within-a-novel) is in the end revealed as a split personality ); but essentially the book is about daughters coming to terms with absent, troubled fathers, which is admittedly a moving subject, and I suppose Crowley handles that aspect with subtlety and depth, so certain people will certainly find at least parts of the novel moving, but it's just too specific a subject to carry the weight of the entire novel, which in the end I considered little more than an academic display of technical virtuosity, an excercise in various voices.
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01/27 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by karen (new) - added it

karen that's too bad - i really wanted to read this one.

Eddie Watkins I don't think there's a whole lot of overlap in our tastes, so you might like it. I'll send you my hardback first edition in protective jacket for free if you want it.

message 3: by karen (new) - added it

karen you are kindness, but i already own it, i just haven't gotten around to it.

Michael Even though I gave it more stars, I agree with your review. Compared to those other books, it's definitely lacking.

Eddie Watkins This book convinced me to just stick with what I know I like when it comes to Crowley.

message 6: by Eric (new)

Eric Kaufman Mr. Watkins, are you rating this book in relation to other novels in general, or in relation to other books by Crowley? I only ask, because it seems odd to find terms like "a rip-roaring read" and "technically, it is a Marvel" in a one-star review. I haven't read the book, and I'm not saying you are necessarily wrong in assigning it a low rating; However, with star ratings like these, one star is generally understood to represent the worst novels one has ever read, while a five star rating ranks a book- in the opinion of the reviewer- among the very best novels one has ever read. So, again, its hard to understand how a "rip-roaring read," whatever its shortfalls, deserves a one-star rating, when there are oceans of lousy books that aren't anywhere close to "rip-roaring."

Eddie Watkins I actually rated it two stars. Given that does your comment hold any water?

But yeah sure my low rating here was influenced by how much I love some of his other novels. I have no desire to be Captain Objective.

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