The first hippies: Passion by Jude Morgan
Atheism, republicanism, free love and even vegetarianism - the Romantic poets believed in all or some of these. Compared with these free-thinking rebels even the Bloomsbury group look like conservatives! They didn't just believe in these ideas they acted on them upsetting the whole of England with their scandals. This is why they are often called the first hippies.
Jude Morgan in her evocative novel, The Passion, weaves a wonderful story around 'the second generation' of these Romantic poets, i.e. Byron and Shelley and their loves. The novel sweeps from the attempted suicide of the famous feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, through the scandal-ridden loves of Byron and Shelley to the tragic end of the era. The novel is filled with interesting characters: crazy Lady Caroline Lamb obsessed with Byron; Augusta Leigh, his too affectionate sister; Annabella Byron, his vindictive wife; and Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein. The author presents these characters vividly sometimes using the trick of writing from the first person point of view which enhances the novel.
The writing is rich and multi-layered providing an excellent picture of the era. Ms Morgan is e equally at home with the debt-ridden, poverty-stricken early life of Mary Shelley; the high society of Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb; and the scandalous summer that Mary and her half-sister and Byron and Shelley spent in Switzerland.
This is a huge book but well-worth reading especially for anyone who likes the Romantic poets and historical novels.