A Quiet Adjustment — Review by Chris

A Quiet Adjustment sounds, acts and feels like a 19th century novel. (Other reviewers identified it as a Henry James novel, and I would agree.) It is, for all intents and purposes, a 19th century novel. The language, the rhythm, dialogue, descriptions — it remains two centuries in the past. As an English student, I didn't appreciate this style of writing, and I don't harbor any more fondness in my advanced years.

The story was obscured by innuendo and suggestion, and I found it difficult to follow and not very enjoyable.

In this novel by Benjamin Markovits, 19-year-old Annabella Millbanke is visiting a family friend when she is invited to a dance party, where she encounters Lord Byron, author of the newly published Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. He was rumored to be conducting an affair with a mutual friend — but it was his sister with whom he danced.

Annabella sets her sights on Byron for her husband and, despite proposals from other suitors, she will take only him.

Why I couldn't tell you.

It's not the fault of any of the main characters: Byron, a self-absorbed, unlikeable character, nor that of his equally unlikable, petulant wife or drearily accommodating, bloated-feeling half-sister Augusta. Rather, the story rippled under a murky and ever-changing surface. I would not have understood the "indecencies" between characters had it not been for the book jacket that flat-out stated the focal point of the book.

While the story was murky, the characters were clear. Byron was not likable and Annabella was foolish and vain. Lady Milbanke was a lush and her husband a soft, pliable man (but apparently a loving one). Augusta was impermeable and born to be a victim.

This is the second of a proposed trilogy; the first book, Imposture, is told from the perspective of John Polidori, Byron's private physician. I'm not inclined to seek out the first book, nor will I read the final book.

Perhaps Markovits' other writing would suit me better, but this one did not entertain me at all. If you have read it, please tell me if you agree — or not — and why that is.

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