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Publisher's Summary

Winner of England's Booker Prize and a literary sensation, Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and a triumphant love story.

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

What members say

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  • Overall

Absolutely Excellent

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.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

audible poetry

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.

29 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Challenging, but Worth It

What made the experience of listening to Possession the most enjoyable?

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.

What did you like best about this story?

Byatt writes beautifully, but mostly she can tell a story that works as a mystery, love story, academic send-up, and an historical.

Which scene was your favorite?

The scene in the graveyard was the perfect crisis, exciting, evocative, satirical.

Who was the most memorable character of Possession and why?

Christabel LaMott, the Victorian writer and poet.

Any additional comments?

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • jasmine
  • Covington, LA, United States
  • 07-02-11

no more please

I listened to four chapters or five I'm not sure but the ongoing drone of the voice and not knowing when it was the narrator when it was the poet or who was who became maddening so i am giving up without the slightest bit of interest about the journey or its end. I think this book is more about itself than anything else best left for literary connoisseurs who can appreciate the fine art of writing about writing.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent reader, fine tale

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!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


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.

18 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • C. Telfair
  • Shepherdstown, WV, United States
  • 02-14-12

Rediscovering a Favorite

I love this book -- read it when it first came out and then again for a book club. Several years have passed. One of the things I love about Audible is finding a fondly remembered book, then discovering a whole new experience in the hearing of it! Possession is very well narrated here, and I just had a wonderful wallow in the joys of this book's language! The plot combines poetry, historical and contemporary romance, and a literary mystery. Possession is not for everyone, but, if you have the occasional poetic and romantic inclination, make the investment.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sarah
  • Norristown, PA, United States
  • 10-19-10

As Good As It Gets

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!

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

"Possession" Certainly Didn't Grab Me

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.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Victoria
  • Pacific Palisades, US, Canada
  • 06-17-10


This story of discovery takes you from authors in Victorian to their researchers in today's England written with rich language.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful