Amy Reads Books

Possession (Vintage Classics)

Possession - A.S. Byatt A.S. Byatt's 1990 novel follows the story of Roland Mitchell and Maud Bailey, two literature academics who each specialise in 19th century poets-Mitchell in Roland Ash and Bailey in Christabel LaMotte. They are thrown together when Roland discovers draft letters in a copy of a book that Ash once owned, which are passionate and are apparently aimed to be read by LaMotte. Roland and Maud are soon thrown onto the path of a lost 19th century romance, that they begin to work desperately to keep hidden from their fellow academics.I really loved The Children's Book, and I have previously attempted to read Possession, but gave up due to its real density of text. This time round, with some critical understanding of English under my belt the novel was made a slightly easier read. In addition to the traditional third person narrative, Byatt also writes in letters, diary entries, poetry and extracts from books written by characters in the novel. Her ability to write in a truly 19th century style is pretty incredible, managing to create letters and diary entries that seem like they came exactly from the era, in addition to being able to write poems that sound like the 19th century Romantics (there was a part of me that wanted to google Ash & LaMotte to check that they weren't real, it's that good).As is often the case when there are two parallel storylines, I was far more interested in the Randolph Ash/Christabel LaMotte storyline than the more modern story of Roland and Maud. There were times also when I somewhat tired of the poetry-I'll admit to have skimmed through some of the just poetry chapters and pages in order to get more back into the plot. Another aspect that I disliked was the slight stereotyping that happened; particularly with Maud-a hardened cool Women's Studies lecturer, who actually has a heart of gold, and Leonara Stern-a bohemian lesbian Women's Studies lecturer. This seemed a little annoying, and out of sync with some of the narrative which discussed how our perceptions of people in the past can shift: Randolph Ash from devoted, faithful husband, Christabel LaMotte from lesbian spinster.As I said, however, I did really enjoy Possession, the central love story is beautiful, and Byatt also manages to make the journey of Roland and Maud to hide their discoveries from the overbearing other academics such as Leonara Stern and Mortimer Cropper exciting. I'd recommend this book to people who have an element of critical understanding of English, an interest in gorgeous romance and perhaps who have patience when it comes to 19th century poetry!