Angels and insects
Morpho Eugenia is what comes after the usual happy ending. Boy meets girl, boy asks for girl’s hand in marriage and, despite the social differences between them (it is Victorian England after all) girl’s father accepts and they settle in the perceived comfort of domestic routine. But William Adamson, our hero, was an explorer in the Amazon and his life with Eugenia is not at all the bliss he imagined. Unfulfilled professionally, he seeks some kind of solace in studying the life of ants, together with Matty Crompton, (the young kids’ tutor and a member of this sprawling household) and discussing creationism vs. Darwinism with his father in law, a fairly open-minded pastor who is trying to write a book on the subject. Large portions of this rather short story are given to the lives and habits of various types of ants – so if this is something you might enjoy then, by all means, go for it. In the end, in a very twisted manner, it all somehow works out for William, but I really couldn’t be bothered to care about any type of outcome. Quite frankly, I was bored out of my mind and took advantage of the fact that Angels & Insects is actually composed of two loosely connected novellas (Morpho Eugenia and The Conjugal Angel) to read only the first one.
In all fairness I can’t blame only the subject of the book for my reaction: I read a translation which I found to be mediocre and poorly edited – and these kinds of annoyances go a long way to make the reading experience much less enjoyable. It was my first encounter with AS Byatt – but I have a feeling it just might be the last too. Other people more inclined to revel in the Victorian atmosphere and the parallels between the human and insect universe seemed to enjoy the book, while Kirkus review was less kind. I’m just happy I can move on.