Farce is one of the hardest literary forms to bring off: in Tennyson's Gift
Lynne Truss manages the correct combination of inventiveness, planning and energy. All of her historical figures have fixed ideas that make them act against their own best interests--Tennyson is paranoid about reviews and photographs and Lewis Carroll is a snob fascinated by photography and small girls; the painter Watts agonises about past betrayals while ignoring his young actress wife Ellen Terry.
This is all the more a tour-de-force because Truss knows her material well enough to make much of the comic exaggeration come from things that were actually the case--the Tennysons spent their time on the Isle of Wight desperately hoping for a royal visit. She adds to the mix a phrenologist with an obnoxious child and a writer of anonymous letters, so that the sections of this novel continually build up comic intensity.
Most of the comedy here comes from excellent structure and timing and only in part from our preparedness to view eminent Victorians with the condescension of hindsight; this is an extravaganza with its roots in good sense and a fascination with the famous dead as they actually were. --Roz Kaveney
'A comic novel of subtle distinction... A richly entertaining book, and at times a very moving one' - The Times 'An enormously entertaining novel, with some terrific writing throughout... a fast-moving farce which allows her sideswipes at the foibles of the famous. It is a delicious confection with some marvellous one-liners' - Sunday Telegraph '[A] wonderfully inventive jeu d'esprit... This epic of the Isle of Wight's literary apogee is virtually the perfect summer book. No deck-chair will be complete without it' - Independent 'A rollicking read. It is mischievous, light-hearted and fun, and it certainly made me want to find out more about the Freshwater circle' - Elisa Segrave, The Literary Review