Have been looking at various highly-regarded book reviewers, trying to figure out which I can trust. First up, Ted Giola.
This is the review that makes me distrust Ted: a positive review of a book I loved, but one that totally misses the point. Compare him to Sheila O’Malley. Ted:
But the most masterful aspect of the plot is the superimposition of
the two love stories, the 20th century one involving Mitchell and his
accomplice Dr. Maud Bailey, a famous LaMotte scholar, and the
19th century romance between Ash and LaMotte. The contrast is
not just one of couples, but also social mores, etiquette and gender
roles. Byatt is in complete control as she juxtaposes the pacing and
complications of these side-by-side stories.
Byatt doesn’t write about people who live in their subjective experience of life. She writes about academics and writers and research assistants – whose “love” for life is expressed through their driving obsession for whatever topic – people who spend their whole lives researching one minor female Victorian poet … and any real love that comes into the life of a person like that will either have to take a back seat, OR somehow inform and deepen that other obsession.
A.S. Byatt writes in this realm like no one’s business. She is the heir of George Eliot (someone she openly emulates). Life is BIG, and important – and it is not just our personal lives that give it resonance – but our passions, obsessions, intellectual pursuits and the wider culture and how it informs how we live.
Which one has managed to get inside the novel, and give you a reason to pick it up? No question, is there?