Sunday Times

27 March 2016, by Nick Rennison

Gothic delights

Our roundup of historical fiction

Women struggling to make their way in a man’s world are the heroines of several recent historical novels. In A Man of Genius, the debut novel by the academic and literary biographer Janet Todd (Bitter Lemon £16.99 / ST Bookshop price £15.29 /ebook), the central character, Ann, maintains a precarious independence in Regency England by writing gothic romances. When she meets Robert James, a self-proclaimed genius, she is initially seduced by his charisma, but a lengthy sojourn in Venice opens her eyes to his many failings. More a petulant windbag than the prodigy he and his taproom disciples believe him to be, Robert is a poor vehicle for Ann’s hopes for love and fulfilment. Amid the intrigue of Venice, she has to find her own path to redemption. This is a haunting, sophisticated story about a woman slowly discovering the truth about herself and the elusive, possibly illusive, nature of genius.


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