This book took my ages to read. I actually started it once, and only got to about a quarter of the way through. In my third year at University, I forced myself to read it fully, and found myself breezing through it when I was making the effort.
Roland Mitchell and Maud Bailey are two scholars, both focused very much on literature. Particularly, poetry. And particularly, two poets. Roland has based his entire life and research around Randolph Henry Ash (a poet loosely based on Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning), while Maud has done the same with Christabel LaMotte (based on Christina Rosetti). Roland uncovers evidence during one of his many research adventures that Ash and LaMotte might have known each other, despite neither of them ever mentioning the others in letters or diaries. He contacts LaMotte about it, and the two being a foray into a very dark and twisted part of the two poets’ histories. Uncovering letters, secret diary entries, and poems written for each other, the two shed light on a mystery that has been hidden for generations.
And then, the infamous question: who really owns all the documents by the two writers? Ash has no surviving family members, and neither does LaMotte. But LaMotte’s sister’s family thrives on, more than a hundred years later. Are the documents legally theirs? Or is it the property of the universities who found them? Or the property of the person who bought them off the people who discovered them?
The title, you see, deals with academic authorship. Who really owns the discovery? And who really owns the author’s work, once it has been found? If there is no copyright, surely it is the finder’s to do whatever they please with it. And what about people? Can we ever truly own them?
I can’t go into more detail without revealing a lot more about the plot, but this novel is a wonderful commentary on both Victorian lifestyle (as the novel is incredibly well researched), and the academic world of the 1980s in England.
Final rating: 5/5. This book is so good it won a Man Booker Prize, people. This stuff is legit.
Quotes I Liked: