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Possession Paperback – October 1, 1991
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Winner of the 1990 Booker Prize--the U.K.'s highest literary award--Possession is a gripping and compulsively readable novel. A.S. Byatt exquisitely renders a setting rich in detail and texture. Her lush imagery weaves together the dual worlds that appear throughout the novel--the worlds of the mind and the senses, of male and female, of darkness and light, of truth and imagination--into an enchanted and unforgettable tale of love and intrigue. --Lisa Whipple
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
The story has to do with a contemporary English "Ash" scholar, who discovers while poking around in the dusty old library what appear to be drafts of heretofore undiscovered love letters, written in the hand of Ash. Randolph Ash, by the way, is a fictionalized major English Victorian poet--probably on a par with Browning or Tennyson--and wasn't known to have had a relationship with any other woman than his wife. After a little detective work, our scholar discovers the identity of Ash's love interest, who it turns out was also a poet--fictionalized Christabel LaMotte. With the help of a female LaMotte scholar, the two then begin an odyssey of literary discovery, uncovering truths in the lives of these literary giants to whom they have spent their young lives studying. To add interest to this already interesting plot is some suspense, in that other, less-altruistic scholars appear to be on their heels, and also there is the smoldering love interest between these two.
It is an excellent story but what is truly remarkable about this novel is that Ms. Byatt has also added large chunks of these poets' literary works. There are numerous lengthy poems by both Ash and LaMotte. There are some of LaMotte's stories. There are the letters themselves, written in Victorian prose, and comprising about forty pages worth of text. There is part of the diary written by Ash's wife.Read more ›
The main characters of Possesion are Roland Michell, a true academic and Maud Bailey, a researcher, but the stars of the book are really the long-dead R.H. Ash and Christabel LaMotte.
In Possession, Byatt gives much attention to minor detail. In fact, her detailing is so subtle that many nuances may be missed on a first reading.
Byatt's writing is beautiful and filled with simple, descriptive language and gorgeous imagery. The majority of the story is rich in both metaphor and allusion, with the following passage being a prime example: "One night they fell asleep, side by side, on Maud's bed, where they had been sharing a glass of Calvados. He slept curled against her back, a dark comma against her pale elegant phrase."
Most of the chapters in Possession begin with a fictitious work by Ash or LaMotte, but Byatt has not only written them well, she has fashioned each so that it is in keeping with the character of its fictitious author.
Ash and LaMotte are both of the Romantic period, yet Ash is more open and free than is LaMotte, who writes with obvious rhyme and rhythm. It is this--Byatt's ability to create so many different writing styles for each of her characters and fit them to the character so perfectly, that makes Possession come to life for the reader.
Possession is not a straightforward narrative, however. Much of the story is told through the letters of Ash and LaMotte, again, beautifully crafted by Byatt. It is through their letters that we really get to know Ash and LaMotte as well as Roland and Maud.Read more ›
It is exquisite.
First, Byatt, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, discards the concept of a "novel" and subtitles it, "A Romance". Whether she realized it or not, this would result in many "romance novel" readers trying to tackle her 1990 masterpiece, only to discard it as "too long and boring". But Byatt persisted in the classification of a "romance" after taking the meaning of the prose of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote:
"When a writer calls his work a Romance....while as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart -- has fairly a right to present that under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer's own choosing."
Here, Byatt boldly invents two 19th century writers. Stunningly, she juxtaposes their existence with real writers of the period...Lord Tennyson, Goethe, Wordsworth, Christina Rossetti, Crabb Robinson, etc.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
High brow, boring book. A lot of it about obscure 19th century poet and modern people obsessed with him. I have not found the book very deep. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Ilya M. Rakhkovsiy
This is at least the third reread for me of this wonderful, book.Published 1 month ago by Catherine McKenzie
It is well written, but the content of the writing is dull and boring for way too long. There are things the characters say that make me think the author prides herself in... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Roberson
This novel has been part of my "to be read mountain" for a long long time. A friend once mentioned the amount of poetry in the novel and that weakened my resolve in some... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Cphe
Interesting (and complicated) story about two modern-day academics who discover a previously-unknown romance between two 19th Century poets. Read morePublished 3 months ago by CLW
Great book about two modern researchers studying poets who fall in love. A story within a story. Takes some patience, but well worth it.Published 3 months ago by Diane
Slow pacing totally destroyed this novel for me & boredom set in quick smart. If you like long passages of poetry & unnecessarily long, rambling, philosophical letters disregard my... Read morePublished 4 months ago by James Montgomery