Monday, 9 January 2012

Possession: A Romance by A S Byatt

Possession to put it simply is about two modern day academics who investigate a possible previously unknown love story between two well known Victorian poets. The story constantly jumps from between the modern setting to a Victorian love story and is told in the various forms of letters, poems, essays, and straightforward narrative.
Possession is certainly not what you would describe as a light read but the combination of the weaving story-lines and the detective part of the plot kept my interest and I ended up finishing this rather weighty book quicker than anticipated. The poetry I didn’t really give my full attention, in fact I skimmed read them. I just didn’t enjoy the poems very much, perhaps I would have gotten more out of the novel by fully reading the poems but I don’t feel as though my overall enjoyment was too much affected. The love story set in the Victorian era was more convincing than the modern day one but both time-lines in their own way kept me turning the pages.

I do have one minor quibble with the novel which I feel I have to mention. Firstly the ‘villain’ was (I felt) badly drawn. The character was an American collector who had to possess any of the Victorian poet’s memorabilia and he was throughout the novel painted as a two dimensional ‘evil rich American’.  Why not just make this character an avid rich collector? Why make him an evil, prostitute visiting, grave robbing almost cartoonist villain? I half expected him to have an evil chuckle to boot. But this is a very minor quibble; it just bothered me a little.

Overall though this is a novel I thoroughly enjoyed and in which I could immerse myself in. The settings are great as are in particular the Victorian characters and I would recommend this. Being quite a multi-layered novel this would benefit from a second read.

Verdict 4/5

Posted by Jess


  1. I really need to read this one someday! Thanks for the excellent review!

  2. I tried to read this a while ago and was put off by its denseness as I was looking for a lighter read (having seen the movie which, I expect, has HUGE differences). I'm sure I will read this soon and I will feel comfortable skipping the poetry this time, following your example. I really don't like poetry.

  3. This is one of those novels that has been staring at me for years. I'll admit that it's the size that's been putting me off. However, I've been considering it as a potential title for a readalong in the near future. The fact that you enjoyed it makes me think that it has to be it.

  4. I have of course heard of this book but until your review I didn't actually know what it was about! I think it sounds very interesting, although I would probably skim the poetry too ...

  5. I enjoyed this book too, though I agree that it wasn't an easy read and is definitely a book that would benefit from a re-read. I did try to read the poems but I'm not a lover of poetry and I admit I ended up skimming them too!

  6. Wendy - hope you enjoy it when you do get around to it.

    Bookworm1858 - from what I've heard the movie is terrible although the victorian scenes are meant to be the only good thing about it.

    Beth - I think this was one of the oldest books on my shelf, you do have to be in the right mood for it

    Sam - some of the poetry goes one for pages and pages too, I feel bad for skimming it but I wasnt going to enjoy it

    Helen - its a struggle if your just used to reading novels and then suddenly there a 10 page poem! I cant never understand alot of them anyway when they are written in that way

  7. For years I've meant to give this one a second read. I read it back when it first came out in paperback and loved it. Realy loved it. Though, like you, I largely skimmed the long poems in the book.

    Maybe one day I'll read it again. I am keeping my copy.

  8. I still have my copy of this novel. Bought it new when it came out and LOVED it. It really is time for me to re-read this one. Hope I still love it :)

  9. I keep hoping to read this one but I'm a little intimidated by it. I saw the movie several years ago and wasn't impressed to remember much about it, but I've heard such wonderful things about the book. And I secretly love books that deserve a second (or third) read!