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.
Outline Review "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
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 6.77" Width: 4.33" Height: 1.26" Weight: 0.79 lbs.
Publisher Livre de Poche
ISBN 2253933368 ISBN13 9782253933366
Reviews - What do customers think about Possession?
An instant classic Aug 31, 2008
I just finished reading A.S. Byatt's Possession, and I have been completely blown away. It's a long book (555 pages), but, in my opinion, it's totally worth it. If you are an English major, this book is a dream come true for you. Byatt writes a modern classic, complete with literary allusions, tons of symbolism, and a gripping storyline.
Roland Michell is a lowly academic, studying the life and work of Randolph Ash, a major poet. But he's not a recognized expert on Ash, he's hardly making any money, and he spends his time applying for jobs that he never gets. His relationship with his live-in lover, Val, has soured, and he's desperately looking for a non-confrontational way out.
One afternoon, Michell is at the English National Library, requesting an old and never-perused edition of one of Ash's own books. Within the pages, he finds undisturbed notes by the famous poet, in addition to two drafts of a very urgent, emotionally-charged letter to an unknown woman (not Ash's wife).
Siezed by unbridled excitement and curiosity, Michell clandestinely pockets the letters, determined to find out who they were meant for. What begins then is a rousing tale of literary investigation, romance, and good-old mystery.
In his search, Roland meets Maud Bailey. Maud is a descendent of Christabel Lamotte, a poetess of some small fame, but not nearly approaching the popularity of Ash. Bailey is a professor at a college, and she is an expert on her ancestral poetess. Her concentration on Lamotte has moved her in the circles of feminist/women's literature.
Together, the two track the movements of Ash and Lamotte and slowly discover all of their secrets. In the process, Maud and Roland come to know one another in a unique way, changing their own personal and professional lives.
It may sound like boring stuff, but I cannot praise this novel enough. The novel is rich with the symbolism that Byatt is so fond of, and she sets her work again in the Victorian period (as she did in Morpho Eugenia), which she obviously has a great knowledge of and affinity for. She deftly creates the poetic works of both of her Victorian writers and sprinkles them throughout the novel.
Also, much of the novel is epistolary, using the letters between Ash and Lamotte to illuminate their relationship and explain their fascination with one another.
This is a do-not-miss book. This is a must-read book. If you are in love with literature, you will love this novel.
A bold conception in a literally dense narrative May 1, 2008
Possession is by no means a perfect novel. Any work that forces you to consult a dictionary or encyclopedia as often as this one does, surely can't be praised for it's simplicity or lucidity. The narrative is dense with arcane words, figurative language, historical and literary allusions. Ms. Byatt's erudition can at times be overpowering. I suppose that density can in part be explained by the fact that this novel is as much about the power and joy (not to mention sensuousness) of language, as it is about a Victorian romance, paralleled by one in the 20th century under the guise of an intriguing mystery and detective story. The modern protagonists are literary scholars and their subjects are poets whose intellect and language skills act as a powerful aphrodisiac in their affair.
What totally blew me away about this novel was that Ms. Byatt was able to synthesize all the critical and sundry elements into a coherent whole that not only had my attention riveted throughout it's wild temporal transitions between the Victorian era (through the correspondence of the poets and journals of their intimates) and modern English society through the inquiries and travels of Roland Michell, Maud Bailey, and their contemporaries, but also contained insights into the psychology of male and female relationships as it pertains not only to physical, but to intellectual and emotional needs.
What is even more amazing, is that Ms. Byatt herself, in the creation of Ash and LaMott, has proven herself to be a poet of outstanding ability and sensibility. She has breathed life into these characters and their poems, so much so, that when consulting my encyclopedia on the likes of Vigo, Swedenborg, Swammerdam, Wordsworth, and Donne, I would almost have expected to find articles on Byatt's 2 fictional Victorian poets as well.
stunning Apr 27, 2008
Possession is one of the more remarkable novels I have read. Byatt not only creates two very human and believable Victorian Era poets but stunning and original work for each as well. While the book can be challenging(there is a lot of poetry that is far from simple) it is an enthralling read. The characters feel genuine and real and the tenative romance between Roland and Maud is wonderfully and tenderly done. Byatt even manages to find and ending of both simple beauty and one that is also emotionally satisfying.
Almost A Masterpiece : Too Bad for the Horrible Structure Jan 20, 2008
Re-reading this novel again, I was reminded of every reason why I didn't quite fall head over heels the first time out. And there is a reason for it. I find that "Possession" really, really stalls when it comes to a repeat reading. My first reading of the book took almost a month - this has got to be one of the toughest books to get through (Ian McEwans' latest "Atonement" is another of these types of books).
Fond as I am of exceeding detail to plot and character development, there is a point at which the writer is too good for the story he is creating. I am not saying this happened here, but Byatt's stunning use of language sometimes undoes the original intent. Readers of straight-forward novels could not possibly find it in them to sustain interest in this.
The primary problem is a very incoherent structure. Just when a plot is being developed or a discovery being made, Byatt kills the narrative by injecting ten pages of a poet's long lost work, or the maddeningly boring inclusion of a dead poets' diary. While everything IS pertinent and makes perfect sense considering the entire books' real heroes are the Victorian poets who are under scrutiny, I could not imagine anything possibly revelatory about the characters from these humdrum passages. Seriously, I found them tiresome and extremely non-essential, to say the least.
If you've watched the cinematic endeavor that this book spawned, you would well do to remind yourself that this holds more detail than the movie did. In fact, the main character here, who was essayed by Gwyneth Paltrow in the film, seems so unlike Paltrow in every way. Also, the two scholars seemed almost bipolar in their mood-swings, which seemed to affect their decisions and words every thirty pages or so. This was not a concern for me, just an observation.
The good part is that the entire novel is gorgeously written, and is a very symbol of the best we come to expect from the English language. Poetry and Prose combine beautifully and its no surprise this has become essential reading in some universities. And though I do love classics, I think I'm going to probably stick to my Whartons and Burneys for now, because either I do not 'get' Byatt, or her writing style is most definitely an acquired taste.
I would suggest reading a few more reviews before making an informed decision. Remember though - this is a book to invest yourself in completely, as it is most certainly not a fly-by-night experience.
A beautiful work Nov 1, 2007
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how much Byatt can pack into her work. So many allusions and references, but each is appropriate. I have to say that I'm a bigger fan of her short fiction, but this is by far the best of her novels. It can be a little slow at times due to all the information, but it really immerses you in the world of the novel. This is one I plan on re-reading more than once, and I'm sure I'll always find something I didn't see before. Great stuff.