HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Possession by A.S. Byatt
Loading...

Possession (original 1990; edition 1991)

by A.S. Byatt

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,595196301 (4.05)568
Member:randalrh
Title:Possession
Authors:A.S. Byatt
Info:Vintage (1991), Paperback, 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

Possession by A. S. Byatt (1990)

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 568 mentions

English (182)  German (4)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (3)  French (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (195)
Showing 1-5 of 182 (next | show all)
It took me a long time to get round to reading this, but it is another example of a book which deserves all the hype. A glorious mixture of styles and highly realised pastiches, driven by a compulsive plot, but never afraid to indulge in lengthy and entertaining digressions. After reading this I sought out all of her other novels, which are all rewarding in different ways. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 11, 2014 |
Possession: A Romance is a 1990 bestselling novel by British writer A. S. Byatt that also won the 1990 Booker Prize. The novel explores the postmodern concerns of similar novels, which are often categorized as historiographic meta fiction, a genre that blends approaches from both historical fiction and meta fiction. In this specific case one of the main themes, struck in the epigraph from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables, is that this novel is a romance in its attempt to "connect a bygone time with the very present that is flitting away from us".

The romance follows two modern-day academics as they research the paper trail around the previously unknown love life between famous fictional poets, Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. Possession is set both in the present day and the Victorian era, pointing out the differences between the two time periods, and satirizing such things as modern academia and mating rituals. The structure of the novel incorporates many different styles, including fictional diary entries, letters and poetry, and uses these styles and other devices to explore the postmodern concerns of the authority of textual narratives. The title Possession highlights many of the major themes in the novel: questions of ownership and independence between lovers; the practice of collecting historically significant cultural artifacts; and the possession that biographers feel toward their subjects.

The romance concerns the relationship between two fictional Victorian poets, Randolph Henry Ash (whose life and work are loosely based on those of the English poet Robert Browning, or Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose work is more consonant with the themes expressed by Ash, as well as Tennyson's having been poet-laureate to Queen Victoria) and Christabel LaMotte (based on Christina Rossetti (although LaMotte is presented as much less well-known poet than was Rosetti) as learned by present-day academics Roland Mitchell and Maud Bailey. Following a trail of clues from various letters and journals, they work to uncover the truth about Ash and LaMotte's history before it is discovered by rival colleagues. Byatt provides extensive letters, poetry and diaries by major characters in addition to the narrative, illuminating the work with poetry attributed to the fictional Ash and LaMotte. I enjoyed the many references to literary and philosophical sources and themes that the author interpolates within the narrative. One favorite theme of mine is reading which is explored near the end of the novel:

"It is possible for a writer to make, or remake at least, for a reader, the primary pleasures of eating, or drinking, or looking on, or sex. Novels . . . do not habitually elaborate on the equally intense pleasure of reading. There are obvious reasons for this, the most obvious being the regressive nature of the pleasure, a mise-en-abime even, where words draw attention to power and delight of words, and so ad infinitum, thus making the imaginative experience something papery and dry, narcissistic and yet disagreeably distanced, without the immediacy of sexual moisture or the scented garnet glow of good burgundy. And yet, natures such as Roland's are at their most alert and heady when reading is violently yet steadily alive." (pp 510-11)

Written in response to John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman the novel explores the postmodern concerns of that and other similar novels, which are often categorized as historiographic meta fiction, a genre that blends approaches from both historical fiction and meta fiction. Byatt wrote elsewhere that "Fowles has said that the nineteenth–century narrator was assuming the omniscience of a god. I think rather the opposite is the case—this kind of fictive narrator can creep closer to the feelings and inner life of characters—as well as providing a Greek chorus—than any first–person mimicry. In 'Possession' I used this kind of narrator deliberately three times in the historical narrative—always to tell what the historians and biographers of my fiction never discovered, always to heighten the reader’s imaginative entry into the world of the text."
This is only one of the many ways that Byatt keeps the novel (romance) interesting for the reader. The combination of mystery, romance, and literary references made this an engaging and delightful book that become progressively more interesting as I read toward its unexpectedly exciting denouement. ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Oct 5, 2014 |
I found this book more intriguing than straight-up enjoyable, I wanted to know what happened next and resolve the story lines while being frustrated by unsympathetic characters (who did become more sympathetic) and certain plot choices. ( )
  GeorgiaIndeed | Sep 13, 2014 |
Art is subjective.

I have just finished Possession by A S Byatt, which is a slight lie, I finished it ages ago and with the turning of the wheel of life, I have just gotten around to writing a review now. I read this book for a number of reasons, quite a few people, generally older women friends, say this book is one of their favourites. It also won the Booker Prize in 1990–so this is reason enough. The other reason I personally read it, I write contemporary love story novels and you need to know the lineage of literature and be able to talk with authority if somebody refers to it, especially in relationship to your own work, obviously this does not apply to everyone that has read it, or attempted to read it.

I did not find it the most stimulating books with regard to content, but it was a work of supreme craft, for example Byatt wrote all the poems herself for the male Victorian character Randolph Henry Ash, if you are writing poetry based on Browning or Tennyson and Rossetti for the Victorian fictional character Christabel LaMott, you lay yourself open to ridicule and scrutiny. She made this up: In certain moods we eat our lives away. In fast successive greed, we must have more. Although that more depletes our little stock. Of time and peace remaining. We are driven.
Byatt also fabricated journal entries and letters for the two Victorian lovers, something unless you have sat down and tried to do is both time consuming and difficult. There is an enormous amount of research in this long novel, something else that requires huge amounts of time and skill to edit for the final inclusion within the book. It is quite easy just to end up with an information dump situation, without skilled measure.

Then there is the breadth of vocabulary within the novel, which is quite frankly enormous–I’m glad I read it on a Kindle, otherwise I would have spent a lot of time looking words up; bathetic, pother, Gadarene, glaucous, milieu, revers, lien, costiveness, parvenu, Fourierist, phalanstery, louring, lambent, argent, bedizened, athwart, palimpsest, simulacra, adumbrate, induration, abjuration, couchant, casuistry, oolite, gimcrack, liminality, suttee, exigent, tumescence, circumlocution, sublunary – imagine if I’d gone to the effort of highlighting them instead of quickly flicking through the book as I have just done! If you get to the end of this book and have not had to look words up, you are either, a genius and should get on with writing the next great literary work or have a photographic memory.

That is just the vocabulary emphasized, imagine if I had highlighted some of the turns of phrase, the clear constructs, the similies and metaphors, knowledge needed for a work of this vast literary scope. Here again is just a few I found flicking through my Kindle, without very much effort;
Desire lies on the other side of repugnance.

His eyes behind were underwater eyes – sad and large and full of veiled friendliness.
Over unimaginable time, by the gradual action of ordinary causes.
Eyes looked out at the world steadily enough, fearless but with something held in reserve.
And his face took the brightness of her glance.
They bring their work and warm each other with their comfortable presence.
Ancient Druids believed that the spoken word was the breath of life and that writing was a form of death.
So it is with rumours. They waft, they burgeon.

Then there is the questions the books throws up, not just about the literary critic of postmodernism and metafiction, but the juxtapostioning of the modern academics and lovers, Roland Michell and Maud Bailey: Has much changed with regard to love? Would you give your child up now–When did that change? Would you not be more honest with your feelings? Would you choose to sacrifice comfort for academia? Ownership of works of art from the past and copyright? Etc, etc. The book throws up as many questions as it answers.
So, here’s the thing that annoys me, and I have to concede it may well be because I am a fiction writer; but how can someone give a book like Possession one or two stars?! Ok, you might not like the tone or the narrative, but some people not only mark it low, they have the temerity to openly admit they only read a few pages before giving up! Why bother going to the effort of reviewing it then, surely an honest review is carried out at the end of a process? I have absolutely no problem if someone does not like a book and can give some concrete personal reasons why they did not. I can only assume that some readers, unlikely to be writers, might want to mark down a book that lots of others love, to be different, misanthropic and alternative, like people who say, ‘I don’t like the Beatles.’ The same me theory applies–probably.
So for Possession a magnificent literary work, you could substitute many other great works in its place. I can see why Mein Kampf gets 2.95 on Goodreads, but not why Possession gets 3.86 and Catcher in the Rye 3.77.

I feel better now, cathartic. How about a simple rule: if you don’t read a book, don’t review it. “I can’t review this book as I only read the first twenty pages.” Why would you want a book you have not read to show up on your bookshelf, unless you like the idea of being well read, but that surely is a modern nihilistic paradox? ( )
  IanMPindar | Aug 21, 2014 |
Weer een prachtig boek van Byatt, 700 pagina's genieten van mooie taal (uitstekende vertaling!), interessante gedachtes, literatuur. Knap hoe ze verhalen uit de 19e eeuw integreert met onderzoek in de 20e eeuw en een soort spiegeling aanbrengt in relaties. Het boek bestaat uit allerlei vormen, brieven, dagboek, gedichten, verhaal met alwetende verteller. Het is een speurtocht en een romance (of eigenlijk meerdere). Enige minpuntje is het einde: dat is wel veel positiviteit en toeval bij elkaar. Maar desalniettemin: een zeer mooi boek. ( )
  elsmvst | Jul 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 182 (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 (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Byatt, A. S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alopaeus, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary 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
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
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 …
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

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.
Haiku summary

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

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
159 avail.
171 wanted
4 pay3 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.05)
0.5 7
1 46
1.5 8
2 102
2.5 26
3 324
3.5 114
4 683
4.5 128
5 861

Audible.com

An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 94,039,010 books! | Top bar: Always visible