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Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt

Possession: A Romance (1990)

by A.S. Byatt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
11,327252393 (4.02)749
Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time. WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE… (more)
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    KayCliff: The story, "Precipice-encurled" can be seen as a sort of paradigm of 'Possession'.
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    KayCliff: Both books are cited by Michael Dirda as examples of antiquarian romance.
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    Sibylle.Night: Both are very literary works and their authors' prose is gorgeous.
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    The Darwin Conspiracy by John Darnton (edwinbcn)
    edwinbcn: In both novels competing academics uncover autographs and written sources (diaries, letters, etc). Similar approach, widely different topics, each beautifully written.
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(see all 21 recommendations)

1990s (9)
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» See also 749 mentions

English (232)  Dutch (4)  German (4)  Spanish (4)  Finnish (2)  Italian (2)  French (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (251)
Showing 1-5 of 232 (next | show all)
It took awhile to get into this Booker Prize winner, with its combination of contemporary narrative style, Victorian writing style, and long narrative Victorian poems, but I'm glad I did.

Two academics, studying two Victorian poets, are drawn together by a search for information about a possible secret relationship between the poets. Several academics studying the same poets, and a literary collector with deep pockets discover that the two academics, Maud and Roland, have found something new, and proceed to follow them to Brittany and then to Lincoln.

Although I didn't laugh out loud, the climax of the search is pretty outrageously funny. This is a book I need to read twice. I might skip the poems, or not. There's a lot of great writing and story telling in Possession. ( )
  fromthecomfychair | May 28, 2020 |
Yes, I must confess my initial dismissal of this novel (10 years ago) has evolved quite a lot, from 2 stars to a solid 4 stars. Marvellous stuff that is far warmer than perhaps I gave it credit for in my nebbishly intellectual youth. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
823.914 BYA
  alessandragg | Apr 17, 2020 |
GOD. ( )
  the_lirazel | Apr 6, 2020 |
Randolph Henry Ash researcher Roland Michell discovers the draft of a letter from Ash to an unknown woman. Michell is convinced he is the first person to lay eyes on the letter since Ash placed it inside a book. Michell’s research leads him to Maud Bailey, a scholar and a distant relative of the female poet to whom Ash’s letter was addressed. Roland and Maud join forces to investigate a long-secret relationship that will change scholarship on both authors.

Byatt does such a credible job of creating the lives and works of her fictional Victorian poets that it’s hard to believe they were not real people. She includes excerpts from their works, letters, and journals, and she even includes critical comments on their works. The pacing of the literary mystery is perfect, with a final twist at the end that left me with tears of joy. ( )
  cbl_tn | Mar 24, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 232 (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 (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Byatt, A.S.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alopaeus, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dugdale, RowenaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Galuzzi, FaustoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johansen, KnutTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lameris, MarianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehto, LeeviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leishman, VirginiaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nadotti, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nyqvist, SannaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Polvinen, MerjaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walz, MelanieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
For Isobel Armstrong
First words
The book was thick and black and covered with dust.
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 …
... the awesome Flamborough Head, where so many have met terrible deaths, in the race of water and the powerful currents - which you can almost see and hear, chuckling beneath the slap of the high waves ... The cliffs are chalky-white and carved and faceted and sliced by the elements into fantastic shapes ... One stands out to sea - raising an impotent or menacing stump -
Whitby ... a sloping town, crowding down in picturesque alleys or yards and flight after flight of stone stairs to the water - a terraced town ... The shop-fronts were old and full of romance.... There were several jewellers specialising in jet.
The Boggle Hole is a cove tucked beneath cliffs, where a beck runs down across the sand to the sea, from an old mill. They walked down through flowering lanes.... A peculiarity of that beach is the proliferation of large rounded stones which lie about ... These stones are not uniform in colour or size ...
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"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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