Wednesday, July 24, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Passion by Jude Morgan

There are books on my TBR pile that I have turned into projects, projects so daunting that the books themselves become impossible to read. Ridiculously, one of these books was Passion by Jude Morgan. It sounded wonderful. Passion follows the lives of the women involved with the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats. The poets, of course, are prominently featured as well. The book got rave reviews. I had to read it. I bought the book--years ago.

The love lives of the Romantic poets told from the women’s point of view seemed like such a tremendous idea for a novel, but after I bought the book and reflected, I didn’t think I was ready for it. I know nothing about these poets or Romanticism. Poetry isn’t really my thing. Would I be able to fully appreciate the novel? Before reading it, shouldn’t I take some sort of crash course? Read some poetry? History? Some literary criticism? Something?

Of course, I didn’t. Instead, the book sat on my shelf waiting for me to have time to do it justice. Because I kept hearing such great things about Jude Morgan’s writing, I bought The Taste of Sorrow about the Bronte sisters, but haven’t read that yet either, and finally, exasperated with myself, I borrowed A Little Folly from the library to give myself a deadline. (It was delightful. Review here.) In the meantime, I put Passion on my TBR pile challenge list. No more stalling. After all, I read historical fiction as introduction to history–to learn something or pretend I’m learning something when what I’m really doing is reading for pleasure.

And what an absorbing pleasure this book is.

Jude Morgan could have written a captivating historical novel about any one of the love stories–there is abundant material here. The setting, England during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, is a fascinating backdrop, although the history intrudes very little on the private lives of these particular citizens, concerned as they are in theory with the state of the world. But by choosing to intertwine all their stories: Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, Caroline Lamb, Augusta Leigh, Fannie Brawne and Annabelle Byron (even Mary Wollstonecraft makes a cameo appearance), the book becomes more than biographical fiction. It really is a story about passion. The various complicated personal histories are larger than life, but the author’s skill in getting inside their heads, using a variety of styles and narrative voices, makes them all very real. All the accolades that Morgan receives for his writing are well deserved. It’s quite amazing that he can make so many literary geniuses sound distinct and convincing.

I’ve completed 7/12 books for my TBR pile challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader and 22/25 for the Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry.


  1. Glad you enjoyed this one. I loved Taste of Sorrow so I'm keen to read more by Morgan, I'll pick up Passion next.

  2. I have this on my own/not-yet-read list and I really should get going on it. I've adored every Morgan book I've read but still haven't been able to motivate myself to pick this one up (hey, it's kind of long.) You're an inspiration!