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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

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
12,006269415 (4.02)799
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)
Member:littlebookworm
Title:Possession: A Romance
Authors:A.S. Byatt
Info:Random House (1990), Edition: 1st American ed, Hardcover, 555 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:historical fiction, lt-inspired, read 2009, literary fiction

Work Information

Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt (1990)

  1. 91
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  5. 30
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    KayCliff: The story, "Precipice-encurled" can be seen as a sort of paradigm of 'Possession'.
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    Sibylle.Night: Both are very literary works and their authors' prose is gorgeous.
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(see all 21 recommendations)

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» See also 799 mentions

English (248)  Dutch (4)  German (4)  Spanish (4)  Italian (3)  Finnish (2)  French (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (268)
Showing 1-5 of 248 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed the way A.S. Byatt's novel "Possession" slowly unfolded the story of two Victorian-era poets -- Christabel LaMotte and Randolph Ash.

Two scholars who have taken a deep look at the poet's work in the 1980's and try to prove a link between the two.

The story was completely up my alley and I always enjoy the way that Byatt's writing and phrasing paints a scene. This a fun read for me, though I can see that it might not appeal to everyone. ( )
  amerynth | Oct 1, 2021 |
3.5 stars. I can see why this was the elitist novel of its day. Personally... I admire the work and the knowledgeability of Byatt. But I'm not a huge fan of the sex. It's kinda everywhere and doesn't need to be. Oh- it's handled very delicately-- but if it doesn't need to be so front page explicit then why does it need to be there at all? But then... I don't think like everyone else does.

Also- I skipped the poetry. But it was admirable nonetheless. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
4.5 stars
Going into this book having only watched the 2002 movie adaptation I thought it would be a simple story about two couples from different centuries falling in love and a bunch of letters that were exchanged by the couple in Victorian England (Christabel LaMotte and Randolph Ash) and then discovered by the couple of scholars living in 1980's London (Maud Bailey and Roland Michell). I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the detail that was put into the story and how the author included poetry, letters and several character's points of view, each with a very characteristic voice.
The end was perfect and it was worth the time I invested in this book (I'm a slow reader, though).

Christabel and Randolph

Maud and Roland
( )
  _Marcia_94_ | Sep 21, 2021 |
I just turned the last page and closed the book. I’m stunned by the achievement of this and don’t know if I can write anything so dispassionate as a review.
This is a long, convoluted novel in the way that nineteenth-century novels were, and yet juggles several levels of plot. The two main threads take place 150 years apart, but these two worlds intersect; in a sense, they trespass upon each other. The author does a virtuoso turn of writing in varying styles to accord with these two levels and adopts a variety of voices to write a series of poems by two of the protagonists, as well as the prose of several other characters. In this and other features, she shows that this is also a novel of the late twentieth century.
Along the way, Byatt demonstrates that the world of scholarship is not dry and airless. The men and women who pursue these studies are a varied lot, each with their own passions and frigidities, ambitions, and fears. Skulduggery abounds. The title word, Possession, takes on a range of nuances and applications in the course of this adventure. Yes, the book recounts an adventure — a quest. It also has elements of romance and mystery. And it’s about the enduring power of myth.
The author has also worked in many small insets, some of which land striking blows, as when the sleek television presenter responds to a remark of her guest, “Sorry, I don’t understand.” Or the description of the dissection of a plate of seafood by one of the characters (the nemesis of the plot) as a metaphor for instruments of torture.
There are further aspects of the author’s style that impressed me. The book abounds in careful, exact observations, as well as in a cascade of recurring motifs. Color plays a prominent role in these. All in all, both in conception and execution, this book enthralled me. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
Intellectual, lyrical, with one of the most perfect endings of any novel I've ever read. ( )
  Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 248 (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.primary 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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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 …
... 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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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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