Possession

Possession

Book - 1990
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'Byatt has contrived a masterly ending to a fine work; intelligent, ingenious and humane, Possession bids fair to be looked back upon as one of the most memorable novels of the 1990s' Times Literary Supplement
Publisher: New York, NY : Random House, 1990.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780099431848
009943184X
Branch Call Number: +F BYA
Characteristics: 511 pages

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brangwinn
Aug 21, 2017

I chose to read this book because it was the 1990 Booker Prize winner. Did I enjoy it? Yes, but until I got about 150 pages into it, I found it easy to put down. But then, as a librarian, what’s wrong with a mystery that involves literary research in a university library? Boring, nerdy researchers as detectives, now that’s cool. Two, researchers, Roland and Maud, find a connection in the poets they are researching. The two 19th century poets were loves. Their relationship was only discovered as Roland perused a copy of a book owned by his research subject. What most fascinated me most was how the author could distinguish which part of the story took place in the Victorian age by the language which represents each period. That dexterity in language and the fact that the current research was done before the Internet and Google, was what made this book interesting.

j
JaneG
Feb 14, 2016

Two time periods, two Victorian poets and two modern day academics. A big mystery and a masterful tale. Take the time to read the Victorian poetry along with an engrossing story of societal expectations, personal realities and love. Extremely clever and a literary tour de force for Byatt.

BCD2013 May 06, 2014

Byatt not only created two sets of intriguing and emotionally involving characters in two time periods, but also created two fictional characters' bodies of poetical works.l An amazing accomplishment, a moving stoy, and an interesting message.

JCLAmandaH Feb 11, 2014

"Possession" is a love letter to literature, by way of celebrating poetry, exploring the world of academia, and presenting meditations on the meaning of words and language itself. The story follows two couples, one a pair of Victorian poets and the other two modern day scholars studying said poets. When a mysterious lost letter is found suggesting a heretofore unknown link between the two poets, our present day academics embark on a literary quest to uncover the secrets of the past. A. S. Byatt weaves such a spell with the world-building for the Victorian characters, from selections of their poetry and letters to flashbacks from their own points of view, that you might repeatedly question whether they were real historical figures or not.

JCLMeganB Oct 04, 2013

This is the book that made me love reading again after that M.A. in English fiasco!

r
rab1953
May 01, 2013

This is a complex book, with many things to comment on. In parts, it is a modern romance about contemporary (post-modern) people who don’t believe in love, but nevertheless grow into a close personal connection, with elements of possession. In others, it is a romantic passion between kindred spirits, drawn together by their feelings but forced apart by social and personal demands of the nineteenth-century middle class. This is particularly interesting when it is expressed in lengthy poems, letters and journals. At another level, it examines different kinds of academic and literary possession, with various researchers and their obsessions for understanding, reputation, completeness and personal satisfaction. And at another level, it’s a literary tour de force, looking at the joys of literature, reading and losing yourself in the creation and re-creation of literature. Byatt manages all of these in a convincing way, combining different forms of writing that give a different perspective on and relationship to each character – some creative, some academic, some poetic, some imaginative. While slow-moving in parts, there’s so much to enjoy, including even comedic and satiric bits, that its 600 pages don’t become tiresome. By the end, when it turns into a melodramatic chase story, it zips along with a what-next spirit and revelations in the salon. A post-modern work about post-modern theorists, it even manages to poke questions at post-modernism when its central figures (they are hardly heroes) fall in love while rejecting the notion of romantic love. I enjoyed this a lot, even though had I read a description of the book I might have thought it would be too literary. So, much respect to Byatt for tackling a forbidding prospect and making it a pleasure.

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ms_mustard
Mar 13, 2013

I just read this for my book club and thought I would tear out my hair in the first 100 pages or so. then I fell in love with it. not an easy read, but well worth it, covering academic research of minutia, feminism, myth and poetry.

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uncommonreader
Aug 01, 2012

A classic. This book is set in the present day and in Victorian times. It address the relationship between two fictious poets, complete with poems, letters, diaries, and footnotes. Byatt chooses 1869 as the point in time of great change and of loss of faith. The researchers' lives parallel that of the poets. Intelligent and wonderfully accomplished.

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gvlee
Feb 21, 2012

Boring, boring, bored. How on earth did someone like this book so much that they made a movie out of it? I couldn't even get past the first 2 chapters.

k
kalio
Jan 29, 2010

When two modern academics, Roland Mitchell and Maud Bailey, uncover the secret love affair between two Victorian poets, Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte, the stage is set for the unfolding of two remarkable love stories. Even as they bicker over the ownership of newly found love letters, journals, and poems of the eminent Victorians, Roland and Maud fall so deeply into the mysteries of the past that they too begin a romance together. And since author A.S. Byatt skillfully recreates the long lost love letters, journals, and poems of the 19th century lovers, the reader is able to witness the passionately doomed--because both are married to other people--relationship between Randolph and Christabel that made waves so long ago. Roland and Maud?s investigation could really shake up the literary world and could supply them both with enough literary power to reshape the scholarship on both renowned poets. But as the past yields its secrets, Roland and Maud are loathe to betray the confidences they?re discovered, even though the parties involved have been dead and gone for decades. Still, the power of Randolph and Christabel?s passion lingers on their 19th century pages (and on Byatt?s modern ones) and past and present begin to coexist in the most exceptional ways. The dual love stories are companionably accompanied by commentary on scholarship, feminism, social class, and the rigors of academic detective work. And since it is the rich details of the loves, passions and sacrifices, both past and present, of these four distinct people that drive the story, Possession is both smartly literary and highly readable. That unique blend won its author the most prestigious literature awards in England (the Man Booker Prize) and Ireland (the Irish Times-Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize). Possession has been hailed as an international best seller, a modern classic, and a love story for the ages.

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GailRoger
Dec 04, 2009

Young girls are sad. They like to be; it makes them feel strong.

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GailRoger
Dec 04, 2009

In his day, he said, students were grounded in spelling and had learned poetry and the Bible by heart. An odd phrase, by heart, he would add, as if poems were stored in the bloodstream.

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