Author: A. S. Byatt
Published: 1990; Pages: 555
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?