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Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  508 ratings  ·  70 reviews
One of our most accomplished literary artists, John Crowley imagines the novel the haunted Romantic poet Lord Byron never penned ...but very well might have. Saved from destruction, read, and annotated by Byron's own abandoned daughter, Ada, the manuscript is rediscovered in our time -- and almost not recognized. Lord Byron's Novel is the story of a dying daughter's attemp ...more
Paperback, 465 pages
Published July 3rd 2006 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 2005)
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Eddie Watkins
May 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 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 acc
Feb 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
What if George Gordon, Lord Byron, had written a novel? He started one, of course, on that famous night in Italy with Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley, but quickly abandoned it. Instead, John Crowley asks what if he'd finished it, and it had come into the hands of his daughter, Ada, Countess of Lovelace? Lord Byron's Novel is an intricately intertwined three-part story: Byron's novel, which we get in its entirety; his daughter's annotations and notes; and the researchers who discover the novel.

May 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Took about 7 attempts to get in to this, glad I did. The book is on three tracks: Byron's novel, Ada's notes on Byron's novel, and modern readers working their way through both. Once all three start gelling the pace picks up nicely, but the Byron novel is slow going even for folks like me who like the occasional Romantic novel (and Crowley does Romantic Novel very well). Extra points for having the modern protagonist being a lesbian and having that be only mildly relevant to the plot, and in no ...more
Tim and Popie Stafford
Crowley is a very inventive and interesting writer, and this novel is complicated in a way that demonstrates his strengths and weaknesses. The plot revolves around a novel Byron wrote, thought to be destroyed, but actually encoded by his daughter in the hopes that it would survive. It is found and decoded by some 21st century women. So the book is part detective novel (told through emails, mostly) and part 19th century adventure novel (the text of the discovered novel). Very clever, and it kept ...more
Michael Battaglia
I've said variations of this before but its quite possible that if someone John Crowley conspired to have me kidnapped by Martians to work in their red dust mines, I'd still be praising his writing to my fellow red dust miners. While some books hit harder than others, there's a level of lyricism and thoughtfulness in each one that feels carefully considered. He doesn't do anything for the heck of it, even if it involves extraterrestrial bodysnatching.

This time out, and much like the last one I r
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book ages ago and, coming across it again recently, decided to renew my acquaintance with it. But ... 100 pages in, I'm giving up. The thesis is interesting -- a novel purportedly written by Lord Byron surfaces in modern times, along with notes for the manuscript written by his daughter Ada. That's very cool, not only because the novel contents are entertainingly romantic, but Ada's annotations are informative, based on Byron's actual life, and a neat nod to Ada's efforts in writing ...more
Oct 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
I started reading this book with great interest and then it just got confusing and boring and you know how I am with authors interjecting comments to the reader (Mark Twain!!!). We have a story supposedly written by Lord Byron. Manuscripts happened upon daughter Ada Lovelace who was to burn them but coded the whole novel into numbers so all was not to be lost then years into the future found again (ofcourse), decoded and published. This could almost be four stories. The story.. the novel is abou ...more
Jul 20, 2013 marked it as iquit
58 pages in and I just couldn't do it anymore. I will commend the author on making the Byron segments as pretentious and ponderous as the real thing.
way too boring...I actually gave up half way through.
Jack Deighton
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lord Byron, of course, never wrote a novel - except perhaps the beginnings of one. Or, if he did, it is lost to the mists of time. Crowley’s conceit here is that Byron completed it, and that his daughter, Ada Lovelace, “the first computer programmer,” burned it due to her batty mother’s insistence, but, before she did so, encrypted it in a series of numbers. Those numbers have turned up in papers belonging to Viscount Ockham, Ada’s son. A website called strongwomanstory has gained access to thes ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'll admit at the outset that I have been thoroughly inducted into the Crowley cult. Little, Big is my favorite novel of all time and I will read anything Crowley has written, even if I'm not interested in the synopsis. I am also an avid reader of Romantic literature, so when I heard about Lord Byron's Novel, I was completely excited.

I won't pretend it's not a slog. Crowley's impersonation is so good that it is often boring and tedious to read the sections written in Byron's voice. The portions
NC Weil
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
John Crowley continues to amaze with the breadth of his creativity. His 2005 book, Lord Byron’s Novel, explores the life of the notorious poet and his near-unknown daughter Ada, later Ada Lovelace, a mathematician who, mentored by Charles Babbage, foresaw the capabilities of computers, even in the 1850s. The vehicle is a single page of a destroyed manuscript which refers to a full-length novel penned by Byron, burned at her mother’s request by Ada. But this single page contains a cipher – a numb ...more
Rebeca F.
Oct 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. It is an interesting project and it's quite well researched and exhaustively done, I acknowledge that. However, I thought it was a bit slow-paced at times, especially the parts that are supposed to be Byron's novel, which is crazy as his poems are anything but slow-paced. Also, I understand what the author tried to do here, others have done it too (Lord of the dead by Tom Holland) and while I could see it at times, there were many other parts in which I dis ...more
Mandy Szewczuk
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Such a great premise, and a fascinating blend of styles, from the mock Byron novel to the modern-age epistolary joy of emails and faxes. However, the actual story itself fell a bit flat for me, with the actual novel not being unique enough from Byron's actual work to give anything new. It was highly predictable, if punctuated with a Byron-like fervor, full of predictable lovers and situations that were just pulled from 'Don Juan' and 'Manfred' and 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.' A writing achievem ...more
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book should've been right up my alley: a pitch-perfect pastiche of early 19th century prose, witty and erudite, by an author whose works I love. And yet... The novel never really feels alive; it feels like a waxwork in a museum -- a wonderful reconstruction, but not something you'd want to spend a lot of time hanging out with.
Richard Seltzer
May 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Ambitious and clever, but disappointing.
Dec 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
In between the seven years between the last and penultimate installments of his Aegypt cycle, John Crowley wrote two standalone novels of a different tone to his hermetic story. Far from being the mystical prose readers of his acclaimed Little, Big had come to expect/demand, these novels delivered a much more straightforward story, tighter plot, and clearer message. Lord Byron's Novel is the later of the two.

The Evening Land has what appears to be a complex structure. It consists of a novel that
Aug 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a story within a story within a story. One level is a novel, the next level is footnote anotations to the novel, the third level is the correspondence of the people involved in discovering and decoded the encrypted novel. [return][return]At it's heart is the 'lost' novel by Lord Byron. It is a fictionalized autobiography of Byron in the form of Ali, the half-Albanian son of a Lord Sane. The next level is the actual story of Lord Byron, his wife, and their daughter, Ada Byron Countess of ...more
Matt Comito
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
not Little, Big but what is?
Jul 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was thrilled to find that John Crowley, author of one of my old favorite fantasy novels, Little, Big, had published a new novel after quite a few years. I was even more delighted to see that it concerned the supposed discovery of a novel reputed to have been penned during a famous gathering of authors, notably Mary Shelley and her husband, the poet Percy Shelley, from which emerged Mary's masterpiece Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. The tale is told through the use of various devices, i ...more
Richard Pittman
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
An ingenious work of fiction, telling in epistolary form a parallel group of stories about relationships between lovers, between parents and children, and between rogues and society. The heart of the book is a newly discovered novel believed to have been the lost novel of Lord Byron, encrypted, annotated, and saved from destruction by his estranged daughter Ada Lovelace and unearthed 200 years later by "Smith", who has a fraught relationship with her roguish, Byronic father, and hints of a tense ...more
Jeremiah Genest
Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Crowley does an amazing job of capturing the early nineteenth-century voice of Byron; The Evening Land is full of both subtle and obvious allusions to Byron’s life and work. It’s not hard to imagine that this novel really is a fictionalized autobiography of Byron, who was a champion of marginalized peoples and cultures, and especially of Albania and Greece. (The comparisons to Byron’s life are intriguing, as the characters in the novel-within-the-novel point out to each other; and as well as Pos ...more
Feb 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book stands toe-to-toe with A.S. Byatt's Possession and Eco's The Name of the Rose, other members of the "fiction detective" genre (I made that up). Crowley captures the unhinged, "Romantic" world of Byron's fiction; the "Victorian" restrained turmoil of his daughter, Ada Lovelace; and some of the forthright longings of our own age, the curious child of the past.

After reading Crowley's novel Ægypt (which I had picked up on a reviewer's recommendation that it presaged and/or provided a theor
Jeffrey St.
Jul 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
John Crowley's The Evening Land: Lord Byron's Novel is a dazzling tour de force of literary mimicry, as he recreates not only Byron's unique voice but also that of his daughter, Ada, a mathematical genius who, with Charles Babbage, developed the Difference Engine, the first computer. A multi-layered narrative, similar to AS Byatt's Possession and John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, Crowley's novel centers on the discovery of a Holy Grail of English literature, the long-lost novel by Lor ...more
This was our book club selection. It took longer to read than I expected, and I didn't finish it by the date of our meeting. I am curious about how it will all end, though, as there are some late revelations typical of novels of Byron's time. So I am still working on it, and will finish soon.

The author skillfully maintains three separate voices throughout: Byron's (ostensibly, since this is a fictional work), that of his daughter Ada as she comments on the events in the "novel" and compares them
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting read. I like historical fiction and this cleverly done story claims from the git-go to be a fictionalized history. Could Lord Byron really have written such a story based on his life? I do not know enough about Lord Byron to know but it was fun to think so. I dropped one star because I thought the intertwining emails having to do with how the novel was discovered became a little too personal about those people in whom I was not really interested. One of the features of th ...more
Jun 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Byron fans, regency literature fans
Recommended to Stephen by: Locus Recommended 2005
Overall Assessment: Good Read

Lord Byron's Novel The Evening Land is a novel of stunning craftmanship. The writing is flawless, the plot strands deftly interwoven, and the story told is subtle, engaging and interesting. At the same time I don't consider it a Keeper. I didn't respond to its themes, characters and milieu. And while I don't regret the visit, I don't see myself returning either.
Kaethe Douglas
This is a multi-layered novel. First we have a manuscript written by George Gordon, Lord Byron, which in real life wasn't completed. But Crowley gives us the novel in its entirety. Next we have the annotations by Ada Lovelace, Byron's daughter, who possessed the supposed manuscript. Finally, we have a modern researcher who discovers the manuscript. So it's a bit like Possession. I loved all of the storylines, since like every female computer geek in the world, I'm an Ada fan. ...more
Shala Howell
Nov 15, 2007 rated it did not like it
I was gritting my teeth to finish this book, so I don't recommend it. The text of "Byron's novel" is overwrought at times, although I suppose that's true to what Byron would have written, so if you like Byron, have at it. The email exchanges interspersed through the text of Byron's "novel" are distracting and seem basically pointless. The notes that are theoretically by Byron's daughter are interesting, though.
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Amazing and brilliant achievement. Takes you through three layers of father/child relationships - a modern researcher and her estranged father, Lord Byron and his daughter Ada Lovelace, and the characters in the supposed novel Byron wrote and his daughter encrypted into mathematical code to protect it from her mother - who wanted to rid her daughter of any influence from her famous father. Each story advances throughout the writing and you find yourself wishing it were not fiction.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

John Crowley was born in Presque Isle, Maine, in 1942; his father was then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after colle

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