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Possession: A Romance

Possession: A Romance
A. S. Byatt
555 pages

Possession is a rich, layered novel featuring both a romance between two Victorian-era poets, and present-day relationships between academics who have made their careers as experts on the poets' lives.  Roland Michell is a kind of perpetual student, researching the life of Randolph Henry Ash.  Maud Bailey is established in her career with a university's women's studies center; her specialty is the poet Christabel LaMotte.  When the book opens, Roland has made an interesting discovery indicating Ash may have had a relationship with a woman other than his wife.  His inquiry leads him to Maud.  Together they assemble a picture of a romance between Ash and LaMotte, which turns prevailng academic opinion upside-down.  Others begin to pursue the prize and the associated professional glory.

Byatt employs several creative devices to develop the characters and tell the story.  Ash and LaMotte's relationship is reconstructed primarily through artifacts (letters, journals) obtained by Roland and Maud.  Byatt "reproduces" them in their entirety so the reader feels like part of the research team.  The romantic storyline also unfolds from several points of view, with each person having only a partial picture.  The reader can see it all.  And as the Victorian mystery is solved, the lives of present-day characters become increasingly interconnected.  Byatt concludes the novel by tying up several threads and adding a quite satisfying postscript.   ( )


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 6th, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC)
Great review Laura - thrilled that you found it such a satisfying book!
Jul. 6th, 2008 08:43 pm (UTC)
I can't seem to stay off your blog today. Too much good stuff being posted! =) I have yet to read this book, but it's on my bookshelf, slated for Book Awards II. I can't wait - I love dual time frames!
Jul. 7th, 2008 10:04 am (UTC)
I've had this book forever, but the size of it has put me off... I'm planning on reading it this year and it's always nice to see good reviews for it!
Jul. 11th, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC)
I keep meaning to read this book, and always tend to forget about it when I'm at the library. Thanks for the reminder and the great review! :)
Jul. 20th, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC)
Love your comment that "the reader feels like part of the research team". Yes! That's one of the things I loved about it, that Sherlockian exploring and hunting down of details. Excellent review, Laura.
Tiffin aka anonymous
Jul. 30th, 2008 11:41 am (UTC)
Being part of the Culturazzi Club
Hey Laura!

You've got a wonderful blog up here.
We recently started a club called the Culturazzi Club (http://culturazzi.org/review/). A club that strives to bring people in arts, cinema, literature, music and theater etc across the world together on a common platform, where they can share their thoughts, opinions, and interact with each other.

We'd love to have you as a part of our club.
Do let us know what you feel about it.

Culturazzi (http://culturazzi.org/)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )