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Tennyson's Gift

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  145 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Unexpectedly moving and luminously wise, Tennyson's Gift is the funniest novel ever written about a Victorian Poet Laureate. In July 1864, a corner of the Isle of Wight is buzzing with literary and artistic creativity. A morose Tennyson is reciting 'Maud' to empty sofas; the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron is white-washing the roses for visual effect and; the mismatche ...more
Published June 10th 2004 by Profile Books (first published January 1st 1997)
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Rating details
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May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Chasquis
‘Tennyson’s Gift’ is a distinctly frothy confection, an absurd farce set in 1864 amid the Isle of White arty set. I have a particular interest in Julia Margaret Cameron, a main character and pioneer of portrait photography, as I’m distantly related to her. Here, she moons over Alfred Tennyson while compulsively giving everyone unwelcome gifts. Like every character in the novel, she is very self-involved and rather silly, while also having a certain pathos. The humour is composed of interpersonal ...more
Connor Mcintosh
Mar 03, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying that I found this novel in a hostel in Greece whilst sunning myself and generally having a splendid time. As such, my review should not be interpreted as coming from a cynical fun-void with no sense of humour. However...

How anyone can genuinely find humour within this "laugh a minute" tome is beyond me. Many readers have said that the book is "slow to get going." My own personal experience saw this book "get going" from glacial to static. What starts as a depressing look a
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is rare for me to simply love 'an entire novel' and not want to stop reading midway through or give up altogether in frustration! You do not have to know all that much about Alfred Tennyson or any of the other literary cast of characters. All you need is an open mind and a sense of humor! This novel is pure fun to read and farce in the true sense of the word!

It seems that I am now mainly reading novels albeit fiction or nonfiction for research or analytical reasons that I rarely read just for
Apr 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable romp, much on the lines of radio shows like The Gloomsberries, but using real names. The writer uses a group of real celebrities who lived on or visited the Isle of Wight in the mid-Victorian period, and concocts a mildly implausible but amusing story in which Julia Margaret Cameron ceaselessly tries to persuade Alfred, not-yet-Lord Tennyson to pose for her. Add in a family of phrenologists and a visiting Lewis Carroll, and you have an interesting mix.
May 29, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a strange little volume and I haven't quite decided whether to persevere with it (I'm about a third of the way through).

It's written in a style that sounds like one of those wry, smart-mouthed female TV personalities like Kathy Lette or Sue Perkins. Many of her expressions are hilariously apt, but it does mean that you're very conscious of the personality of the author as you read - and since her voice is not at all Victorian, it jars a bit.

What's really distracting, for me, is that I'm
Aug 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up in the library because we loved one of Truss's other books, "Eats Shoots and Leaves" which I would recommend highly.

A bit slow getting started and from most of the text in the first chapter or two I was afraid that it would end up being the sort of book that seems to be all in vogue right now, purported biographies where the author fills in great gaps in what is known about the subject with their own flights of fancy: "We don't know what Lear and his man-servant talked about bu
Jun 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alice In Wonderland Fans, Tennyson Fans, G. H. Watts Fans
Humorous Historical Fiction.

Silliness... If you like Lewis Carrol,Alfred Tennyson,Julia Camernon: early photographers and Victorian literati, and quirky British humor the first few paragraphs have not failed me. It reminds me of watching Posh Nosh for the first time: fascinating, foreign and oddly funny. It's very... English (use English accent when saying 'English' for full effect).

Don't let the bad choice of cover art turn you away from this book.
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alright, I really really liked this book, but given that it caters to some of my very specific interests (making fun of Prominent Victorians. Said Victorians making fun of each other. Semi-obscure jokes about Victorians. And so on.) I could be a little biased. I would definitely recommend this book, if that's something you're interested in, though.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very entertaining read. I loved the comic portrayal of such eminent Victorians. I also read this on the Isle of Wight and visited the Dimbola House Museum - JMC's photographs are very arresting and were influential in Hollywood. Well worth seeing and re-living the setting of the novel.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
A perfectly paced and riotous caper, underpinned by a scholarly knowledge of "Tennyson and his cycle", to whom Truss devoted a wonderful little pamphlet for the National Portrait Gallery. In the course of a few days on the Isle of Wight in the Summer of 1864, the ill-conceived marriage between the elderly painter George Frederic Watts and the seventeen-year old actress Ellen Terry unravels while they are house-guests of photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, who is obsessed with her pursuit of her ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Real characters and places, made up characters in real places, clifftop jeopardy and interesting smells, class, early photography and an exhibition currently running at the National Portrait Gallery (as of April 2018) commensurate with the life and work of Lewis Carroll, Julia Margaret Cameron, Alfred Lord Tennyson and all. What a package. Should be made into a film! There is so much to enjoy here, Lynne Truss is a wordsmith par excellence and she mines this rich seam of Victorian life down to t ...more
Pam Gough
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very clever and funny
Jul 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Victoriana fans
Recommended to Diana by: Andrew, unknowingly
Random but fun. I saw this book on a bookshelf in someone's house when I was sort of sneaking around looking at what they read, and wondered what it was. From the woman who brought you 'Talk to the Hand' and 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves', this is a fictitious story about lots of heroes of Victorian England's artistic world all getting together in a coincidence of drama and mayhem. Lewis Carroll is there, Julia Margaret Cameron, and of course Tennyson, Poet Laureate. It's such an odd little story t ...more
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, humorous
This was very funny and was a kind of "Alice in Wonderland" set in the Isle of Wight in Victorian times. Although I enjoyed it I didn't really understand what it was about. Just as I thought it was exploring fame in Victorian times it seemed to shoot off and start to examine talent or something else. Of course it could have just been for fun but it read as though there was a more serious point to the story lurking under the funny stuff. Unfortunately if there was it was buried too deep for me to ...more
Apr 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Knockabout fun playing fast and loose with a little bit of Victoriana. Not one for the serious literature shelf (as I'm sure Ms Truss would be happy to concede) but a most enjoyable and chucklesome jaunt. She reminds me of the late Linda Smith. Further proof in the current (well, last year's) debate over whether clever women can be funny; that they most certainly can be. It's like her Radio 4 series, Acropolis Now; an enjoyable half hour if you catch it; not all the world if you miss. That she w ...more
Rebecca E.
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Meh. While there was nothing specifically wrong with it, I didn't enjoy it and actually abandoned about two thirds through. It felt a bit too "clever" like she was trying just too hard to be witty and literary, leaving me both cold and trying to get past the literariness to the story. Which I still haven't done - two thirds through and I still don't know what the point is!

Just a personal thing but not my cup of tea.
Oct 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, the author imagines a quirky summer vacation of several Victorian authors and artists. The writing style takes on the flavor of Victorian comic satire, even when the story's events turn emotional. I enjoyed the story as an entertaining diversion between larger books.
Hope this gets better as I'm really not enjoying it yet - humour seems overly worked and calculated.

Gave up after 3 chps - too many other good books to read to waste time on one that irritates me so much.
Angela Buckley
Aug 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book - quirky, entertaining and refreshingly unique. I love the Isle of Wight and it was a sheer delight to read all about these extraordinary characters and their eccentricities. I would highly recommend it.
Lynne Elsisy
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing romp. As other people have said makes you want to find out more about all the different real leife characters brought to life in this book. I'll never think of Tennyson in quite the same way again!
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the wittiest books I've ever read. Truss really knows the period--the facts, the feel, and the foibles. If you appreciated A.S. Byatt's erudition in Posession and have a sense of humor, you will love this book. I can't understand why it's been overlooked.
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining account of what happens when Tennyson meets GF Watts, Ellen Terry and Charles Dodgeson. Just add some evil kids and an American phrenologist
Shonna Froebel
Jun 22, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Didn't like it much, and although it is supposed to be a comic novel, I found it more sad than funny. Gave my copy to the library
Clare Coffey
It was ok. Some of the characters were a little one sided. It was not as good a book as I thought that it was going to be.
Jan 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Actually funny, interesting and moving by turns, but so far removed from anything I've read before that I really don't know how to place it.
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another short novel by Truss, another fun read.
Mar 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anglophiles, victorian nerds
Shelves: favorites
HILARIOUS work of historical fiction
Miriam Joy
I think this one may have eluded me, at least where any sort of emotional connection is concerned. There were parts I think I was supposed to find funnier than I actually did, which is always disappointing; other than that I never really felt I settled in to understanding what the book was trying to do.
Kath Leeder
rated it liked it
Apr 26, 2015
Marian Savill
rated it liked it
Jul 10, 2011
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Lynne Truss is a writer and journalist who started out as a literary editor with a blue pencil and then got sidetracked. The author of three novels and numerous radio comedy dramas, she spent six years as the television critic of The Times of London, followed by four (rather peculiar) years as a sports columnist for the same newspaper. She won Columnist of the Year for her work for Women's Journal ...more
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“Jessie had never heard you could inherit madness. She thought madness was something that just happened to people in Shakespeare when the wind got up.” 3 likes
“She was one of those invalids who has to lie down a lot, and sometimes can't lift a bread knife, but can shift a mahogany wardrobe if the fancy is upon her to see it in a different place.” 2 likes
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