A Quiet Adjustment
This is the second in the author’s Lord Byron series – though both novels can be read independently and indeed this is set chronologically before the first book, which was mostly about Dr Polidori’s relationship with Byron. This story is narrated from the perspective of Annabella, Byron’s much-suffering wife. Annabella, attractive and highly intelligent, falls for the dashing charms of the famous young poet and accepts his offer of marriage. The story is well known and Byron does not lack a stream of historical fiction writers to tell this tale. Annabella is desperate to do all that she can to make her new husband happy but, from their very first days together, Byron treats his new wife abysmally until, eventually, she is forced to leave him taking their newborn baby, Ada, Byron’s only legitimate child.
Annabella forms a friendship with Byron’s sister, Augusta, and it is the revelation of their incestuous relationship which the author argues is the key to Byron’s awful behaviour and Annabella’s realisation that he could never be tamed and reformed.
The legal battles, Annabella’s somewhat self-righteous attempt to force Augusta to let her brother be and the death of the great poet form the somewhat extended conclusion of the story. The prose is dense and demanding but wonderfully literary and engaging. Markovits has a splendid eye for descriptions of nature and dissects the often complicated layers and patterns of human behaviour. This is fiction that demands an attentive reader willing to work at the story, but it is very much worth the effort.