Review by Jeff Grimm
A Man of Genius by Janet Todd is a psychological page turner. It delves deeply into the interactions between a female writer and a genius/borderline madman.
Here is brief summary from the publisher:
A Man of Genius portrays a psychological journey from safety into obsession and secrecy. It mirrors a physical journey from flamboyant Regency England through a defeated Europe struggling to create a new order after the upheavals of the Napoleonic conquests.
Ann, an author of cheap Gothic novels, becomes obsessed with Robert James, regarded by many, including himself, as a genius; she is captivated by his Romantic ideas, his talk, and his band of male followers. The pair leaves London for occupied Venice, where Ann tries to cope with the monstrous ego of her lover. The relationship grows tortuous as Robert descends into violence and near madness. Forced to flee with a stranger, she delves into her past, to be jolted by a series of revelations— about her lover, her parentage, the stranger and herself.
I am still trying to get my brain wrapped around this book. On one hand, it is an interesting look at post-Napoleonic Europe and how all of Europe is struggling to find their place in it. On the other hand, it is a psychological thriller (I am not sure if that is the right word) that explores the tumultuous relationship between Ann and Robert.
In addition to the drab scenes in London, Todd describes occupied Venice after the Bonaparte’s are overthrown. The occupiers are the Austrians and the Venetians are not too keen on the occupation. Into this tension, Ann is swept up in both the seedy and opulent parts of Venice – trying to keep shelter and food in her stomach.
Parts of the book seem to go on forever, but others keep the reader’s attention. The best part is when Ann must flee Venice with the stranger. It is the best because many questions are answered as she delves into her parentage and Robert’s past.
The book is an intriguing read.