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Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt
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Possession: A Romance (original 1990; edition 1990)

by A.S. Byatt

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9,660203299 (4.05)590
Member:kiwidoc
Title:Possession: A Romance
Authors:A.S. Byatt
Info:Random House (1990), Hardcover, 555 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Fiction. English. Booker prize winner.1990.

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Possession by A. S. Byatt (1990)

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English (188)  German (4)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (3)  French (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (201)
Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)
I did read this, and I didn't care for it. I remember it as being needlessly dense and show-offy. ( )
  sturlington | Feb 25, 2015 |
I admire Possession hugely, but don’t love it. It’s beautifully written and skilfully plotted, interweaving the tales and romantic (and other) entanglements of both two Victorian poets and the 1980s academics who unexpectedly uncover their correspondence. The Victorian sections are a tour de force: extensive correspondence, journals and poetry written in the period but distinct voices of four different characters. If you’ll linger over these lovingly crafted Victorian pastiches and enjoy the gentle sending up of twentieth century literary criticism, you’ll join Possession’s deserved army of fans. I conclude this reader and this book just lack chemistry. ( )
  Bernadette877 | Feb 22, 2015 |
I'll be honest - I skipped what many would consider to be important portions of this novel, namely the poetry and the love letters. Bottom line, I can't follow Victorian romance poetry, and the letters weren't far removed. As historical fiction though, this was a really good story, and the number of books I favor with a current and past activity going on at once continues to grow. It made for interesting discussion at our book club, but I should note that everyone had a hard time with it and the number of readers that could finish in a month was low (as in one)....FYI! I do respect the author's work overall in all she accomplished, even though I could not fully appreciate it. ( )
  MaureenCean | Jan 19, 2015 |
This book is a joy to read on so many levels -- mystery, poetry, fairies, character studies, transformation, and, to quote a line from the Rolling Stones: "...sex and sex and sex." Byatt's mastery of the language and prose is apparent on every page, from the poetry-like prose of the early pages to the rapid-fire delivery during the detective-game ending.

Some criticisms are valid: a tad too much poetry detracts, particularly opening every chapter (often having concluded the previous chapter); and symbolism (green, white, apples) that pounds the reader -- or at least treats the reader a bit too much like a college freshman. But these are quibbles. Overall, a brilliant book. ( )
  rongeigle | Dec 29, 2014 |
An extravagantly self-aware and self-gratifyingly intellectual postmodern study of the idea of possession masked as a Victorian-style romance. Despite its languid writing style, the story moves surprisingly fast with the catalyst event occurring a mere five pages from the beginning and slowly and almost-unsuspectingly snowballs into a tense mystery which teases and thrills. If you enjoy reading about academia, e.g. how research is conducted or the claustrophic atmosphere that an expertise in such a narrow area creates, it is no guarantee that you would like the book but it is a start.

There are so many potential pitfalls in this book which were largely avoided. For instance, the letters through which the romance between Ash and La Motte was conducted. As there were mostly no external interaction between them, the developing romance must be convincingly conveyed to us through their letters, we must be able to go oh yes, of course they fell in love, of course this is the way their feelings proceeded. Another potential pitfall was the poems interspersed in the novel. As with the letters, Ash and La Motte both have and maintain their very distinct voices, yet as the romance continues, their influences on each other's works were subtly clear. What is more impressive is that their letters and works were all sprung from the author's imagination. Sometimes when reading a book, it is easy to skip a word or whatnot and it is always a mindblowing reminder to myself that every word you read was mulled and written by someone for an exacting purpose. (Of course, this epiphany only comes when reading very good books. As a sidenote, reading poetry does not come naturally to me but I found it useful to read out loud the poems. It forces you to slow down and understand since poetry is self-enforced to be extremely condensed in words but rich in interpretations.)

The parallel romance in the modern day was not as intriguing, mere adequate but that might just be my reluctance to accept such dreary characters. Roland and Val were frustratingly depressing and the eventual repositioning of relationships in the modern day was too easy a fix for characters who always sought an easy way out in the rather the devil you know way. Maud's fixation on her past relationship with Fergus was eye-rolling as he sounds so smarmy. However, Roland's jealousy/hidden-dislike of Fergus since he was, y'know, good at his job and good at being sociable, was such drivel. Stop wallowing in your self-pity, Roland. The various other academics were stereotypical but I suppose in a postmodern work satirising academia and authorship, it is unavoidable. (half-star off)

The novel is remarkable to me for its distinct feminist tone over its range of female characters as well as the authorial lliberties taken to inform the readers what the academics in the book never found out. The postscript must be given an honourable mention in its hauntingly beautiful rounding out of the story. ( )
2 vote kitzyl | Dec 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)
This is a romance, as the subtitle suggests, but it's a romance of ideas — darkly intricate Victorian ideas and modern academic assembly-line ideas. The Victorian ideas get the better of it.
 
Shrewd, even cutting in its satire about how literary values become as obsessive as romantic love, in the end, “Possession” celebrates the variety of ways the books we possess come to possess us as readers.
 
I won't be so churlish as to give away the end, but a plenitude of surprises awaits the reader of this gorgeously written novel. A. S. Byatt is a writer in mid-career whose time has certainly come, because ''Possession'' is a tour de force that opens every narrative device of English fiction to inspection without, for a moment, ceasing to delight.
added by stephmo | editNew York Times, Jay Parini (Oct 21, 1990)
 

» Add other authors (44 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Byatt, A. S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alopaeus, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Byatt, A. S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dugdale, RowenaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johansen, KnutTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lameris, MarianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehto, LeeviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nyqvist, SannaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Polvinen, MerjaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walz, MelanieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume, had he professed to be writing a Novel. The latter form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man's experience. The former -- 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 truth under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer's own choosing or creation. ... The point of view in which this tale comes under the Romantic definition lies in the attempt to connect a bygone time with the very present that is flitting away from us. -- Nathaniel Hawthorne, Preface to The House of the Seven Gables
Dedication
For Isobel Armstrong
First words
The book was thick and black and covered with dust.
Quotations
The book was thick and black and covered with dust. Its boards were bowed and creaking; it had been maltreated in its own time. It spine was missing,

or rather protruded from amongst the leaves like a bulky marker. It was bandaged about and about with dirty white tape, tied in a neat bow. … it had been exhumed from …
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
"Literary critics make natural detectives," says Maud Bailey, heroine of a mystery where the clues lurk in university libraries, old letters, and dusty journals. Together with Roland Michell, a fellow academic and accidental sleuth, Maud discovers a love affair between the two Victorian writers the pair has dedicated their lives to studying: Randolph Ash, a literary great long assumed to be a devoted and faithful husband, and Christabel La Motte, a lesser-known "fairy poetess" and chaste spinster. At first, Roland and Maud's discovery threatens only to alter the direction of their research, but as they unearth the truth about the long-forgotten romance, their involvement becomes increasingly urgent and personal. Desperately concealing their purpose from competing researchers, they embark on a journey that pulls each of them from solitude and loneliness, challenges the most basic assumptions they hold about themselves, and uncovers their unique entitlement to the secret of Ash and La Motte's passion.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679735909, Paperback)

"Literary critics make natural detectives," says Maud Bailey, heroine of a mystery where the clues lurk in university libraries, old letters, and dusty journals. Together with Roland Michell, a fellow academic and accidental sleuth, Maud discovers a love affair between the two Victorian writers the pair has dedicated their lives to studying: Randolph Ash, a literary great long assumed to be a devoted and faithful husband, and Christabel La Motte, a lesser-known "fairy poetess" and chaste spinster. At first, Roland and Maud's discovery threatens only to alter the direction of their research, but as they unearth the truth about the long-forgotten romance, their involvement becomes increasingly urgent and personal. Desperately concealing their purpose from competing researchers, they embark on a journey that pulls each of them from solitude and loneliness, challenges the most basic assumptions they hold about themselves, and uncovers their unique entitlement to the secret of Ash and La Motte's passion.

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:56 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

As a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets uncover their letters, journals, & poems, & trace their movements from London to Yorkshire-and from spiritualist seances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany-an extraordinary counterpoint of passions & ideas emerges. An exhilarating novel of wit and romance, an intellectual mystery, and a triumphant love story. This tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets became a huge bookseller favorite, and then on to national bestellerdom. Winner of England's Booker Prize, a coast-to-coast bestseller, and the literary sensation of the year, Possession is a novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and a triumphant love story. Revolving around a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets, Byatt creates a haunting counterpoint of passion and ideas.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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