As a pair of young scholars research the lives of two Victorian poets, they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire - from spiritualist seances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany. What emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passion and ideas.
©1990 A.S. Byatt; (P)1999 Recorded Books
When holding the book in my hands, I found the long sections of history and myth woven into poetry interesting in what they revealed about the characters and the author. Strangely, many of these same sections became tedious when translated to the oral format. Perhaps I had jumped ahead or not paid full attention when reading? But when listening there is no effective way of moving the story forward without possibly missing the plot narrative. "Get on with it already!" I cried several times. A warning, the theoretical polemics of post-modern "social scientists" may seem impenetrable to those not embroiled in the verbiage of modern academia; those involved in these fields may see themselves parodied with ironic accuracy. It is words and, as stated by the author, "lists of words that arranged themselves into poems" that form the beauty of this book that ultimately leaves the romantic in tears.
This is one of my favorites. As a book, it is embedded with wonderful and varied texts that add up to "A Romance" -- narratives from the 19th century and 1980s, as well as fictional but authentic-sounding epic poems, mythology and folk stories, biographies, and letters. It includes very interesting characters, especially among the academics of the 1980s, and considers "possession" as a word and concept in fascinating ways. As an audiobook, Virginia Leishman brings everyone to life in her nuanced narration. I've listened to it many times and always find it a pleasure.
I really liked this book. I thought the narrator borugh tthe right touch of aloof englishness to the story. And the story captured me. I was worried that I would find the time hopping points of view to be confusing or tedious, but it really helped reinforce the story arc for both time periods. The portions that were told through the letters between Randolph Ashe and Cristobel Lamont were wonderful and intimate. I had watched the movie and was skeptical that the book could be better but it was wonderful much more nuanced and I was sad when it was over!
I enjoyed this. I think I'd be annoyed if someone build a perfect replica of a 19th century building in my neighborhood, but thoroughly enjoyed her conjuring of two fictitious 19th century poets. Go figure!
I'm a published novelist under my own name and the pen name Sara Donati. I'm also an academic specializing in sociocultural linguistics.
Byatt weaves together two story lines, one set in Victorian England and the other in present day academia, in England. She is an academic herself and this is probably the best (and funniest) portrayal I've come across. At the same time the themes are deep and resonant. It's hard to believe that she made the two Victorian poets out of thin air, they are so clearly drawn.
Byatt writes beautifully, but mostly she can tell a story that works as a mystery, love story, academic send-up, and an historical.
The scene in the graveyard was the perfect crisis, exciting, evocative, satirical.
Christabel LaMott, the Victorian writer and poet.
Byatt composed two sets of poetry for this novel, one for each of the Victorian poets. This is not light reading, but then on the other hand you can get a lot out of this novel even skipping over the poetry. The narrator really delivered, as well.
This story of discovery takes you from authors in Victorian to their researchers in today's England written with rich language.
I normally don't bother to write reviews on books I didn't love, but I feel compelled to make an exception in this case.
The narrative is beautifully written and I can tell that the author has a real love for the sounds of words - but there is just too much narrative and not enough story for my taste. There didn't seem to be any likable characters - or maybe it was that the narrator's performance kept them from being interesting. I found myself frequently having to go back and listen to sections again in order to tell which character was speaking. I slogged through the entire thing, but I'm not sure why I bothered.
This may just be one of those books that is better on the printed page than it is as an audio book.
Let me preface this by saying that I like LONG books. 25-, 30-, 50-hour stories are a delight - as long as they can hold my attention, and most do. But "Possession" didn't. Not from the start. Not by the mid point of the first part - or the second part. I finally just skipped to the third and last part just to find out that the thinly disguised plot turned out just as I had suspected; no surprises there, either. The premise was interesting - Victorian setting, seances, unusual characters, etc - but it was the prose - THE PROSE - THE ONGOING, EVERLASTING PROSE! that did me in. 75% of this 'novel' is simply poetry without rhyme, and it takes a very long time for the author to get around to actually telling the story. Don't get me wrong! I like poetry - in reasonable-sized doses. I also like very descriptive novels, since that is, after all, what writing is all about. But this went way over the top for me. Not only are you lulled by the drone of the 'literature', but you can't seem to get very interested in the characters. They seem rather wishy-washy (which may be the very point), and you just wish someone would come along, kick them in the pants and tell them to 'get over it' and get on with the story!!! Yes,the prose was beautiful; the author truly is gifted and writes the most delicious descriptive phrases, drawing precise pictures in your mind with a few deftly chosen words. If this is your 'cup of tea' (since the book is set in the UK), you're going to love it. If you want plot, action, excitement, switch-backs and 'I never saw THAT coming' - choose another looooong book.
This book has a style and characters that are not that exciting to me, but would probably be to someone else. The characters like libraries and manuscripts and probably (it's been a while since I read it),a spot of hot tea to really make the world right. It was all very into the joys and nail-biting of academia, if that's what you like, with an extra teaspoon of fuss-budget. The characters seem a little geriatric for as young as they're supposed to be. Some books of this genre really work for me (give me Jane Austen and yes, some Earl Grey),and I wish this could have been one. (The Historian by E. Kostova was good, too).
This may be a book which is better read than listened to. The long excerpts from the fictional author's work [called "Ragnarok"] made my eyes glaze over. Perhaps if they had been read by a man, to distinguish them from the book's narrative, read by a woman,[why, I am not sure since it seems to be from a male POV] it might have helped. I simply could NOT finish this, no matter how much I gritted my teeth and tried to plow through. The modern story seemed to go nowhere. It short, "Possession" was boring.
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