Possession – A. S. Byatt

Posted 6 March, 2014 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 22 Comments

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Title: Possession
Author: A. S. Byatt
Published: 1990; Pages: 555
Genre: Fiction
Rating: Wow that made my head hurt!

In Short: Two literary scholars (Maud and Roland) of 19th century poets (LaMotte and Ash) make a major breakthrough that will change the shape of their scholarship. Possession is told through intertwining present with diary entries, letters, poetry, and scholarly articles.

Why I Read It: I bought Possession in my earlier days of blogging because I kept hearing a lot about it–presumably because it’s also an award winner. I recommended it as our January read for my face to face book club.

Thoughts in General: People loooooove this book. I wanted to loooooove this book, too. And there were aspects of Possession that I really did love. Or at least the idea of things that I loved. I loved the idea of uncovering so exciting and novel. I did not like the scholarly articles that went along with these discoveries. I loved the idea of two bookworm nerds stumbling together to make connections in their field of study that would also lead to potential romance. I did not like Maud’s severe personality and Roland’s lack of confidence and pride. I loved the taboo relationship between LaMotte and Ash but I wish that I could have had more of their story.

The writing, however, is pretty amazing–especially when you consider that Byatt basically wrote modern day Victorian poetry and made up an entire elaborate plot of discovery involving a million little tiny pieces. It was fun to see the pieces coming together but it took a long time to get there and a less patient reader is likely to give up even knowing that the last 100 pages are the best. Byatt won the Booker Prize for Possession and it’s easy to see why–though it is not an easy read. I really went back and forth with this book–I loved it and then I didn’t, I loved it and then I didn’t. I really wanted to just be sucked in and stay sucked in. Though, even though it was tough at times I never had a difficult time picking it back up after putting it down.

Bottom Line: I liked Possession more than I didn’t like it. And I’m keeping it on the shelf for a potential re-read one day. If you’re not afraid to work a little bit to find the gem in a book, go for it! If work while reading makes you insane, skip this one. And for the record I did skip the all poetry and half the letters and scholarship. I do not feel that I lost anything in my reading from this particular laziness. So, in the end I found Possession worthwhile but Byatt really could have made it a bit easier for us!

Have you read Possession or seen the movie? What did you think?

Do you mind working to find the gem within a book? 

22 Responses to “Possession – A. S. Byatt”

  1. I am interested in reading this… only because I learned about it after reading S by JJ Abrams. A book about two people who also take notes and then fall in love. S is a really neat book so I would probably like this one too.

  2. I watched the movie and so then, eventually, of course wanted to read the book. I think I got through about 50 pages and gave up. I felt awful because everyone loved it but it just didn’t grab my attention at all. I can’t say if I’ll ever give it another try — only time will tell, I guess!

  3. I want to read this, yet am very intimidated. I’ve got a copy of The Children’s Book on my shelf, so may try that first to see if I like her writing style. Don’t think that one is quite as ‘hard’.

  4. Ti

    I could not stand the book!! It was like sticking a tooth pick in my eye every time I picked it up. I eventually put it down and not that far in. Maybe 100 pages in?? Everyone that was reading it with me agreed with me but then past the 100 page mark they began to like it. Perhaps, if I had stuck it out, I would have too but reading it felt like torture.

  5. I know what you mean about people loving a book that you just feel…’ehhh” I was like that with Eat, Love Pray. Everyone raved about it and I didn’t like it. This is one on my long, long list of books to read so, will let you know what I think after reading. Nice review!

  6. I loved this book, but it isn’t one I would attempt for the first year of an infant’s life. I felt like I needed to read it for several hours at a time to sort of “sink” into it. I hope you enjoy rereading it one day!

  7. I’ve tried reading this book in the past, but never completed it. I may try reading it again. I feel like Kathy though, maybe this book is too smart for me.

  8. I’ve seen most of the film and it was quite slow going, I was actually surprised to find out it was based on the book. That said the sound of the poetry sounds awesome, and though I could see myself wanting to skip it, too, so does the academic side to it.

  9. I really don’t know why we finished this book as much as we both didn’t like it at times. I did like it more than I didn’t like it but I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason to suffer through it!

  10. I am proud of you for reading this; it has been sitting on my shelves so long it may actually be stuck on the shelf.

  11. I have tried this a few times and really wanted to love it because the plot was so appealing but I just never could get into it. Glad you enjoyed it even if it was a little difficult.

  12. Sounds like a little too much work for me at the moment, so I’ll probably stick with the movie. But maybe someday! I’m glad you liked it more than you didn’t though.

  13. Les

    I have no interest in the book, but I’m ready to watch the movie for the second time. Loved it the first time around. Do you plan to watch it?