What’s it all about?:
Winner of the 1990 Man Booker prize, Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.
What did I think?:
When I first started reading this novel, I really wasn’t sure but I was told to stick with it and I’m so glad I did, it really sucked me in. It is the tale of Roland and Maud, who study the poets Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte respectively(both poets are fictionalised by the author). On finding a forgotten and intriguing letter penned by Ash in a library book, Roland cannot contain his excitement that it could shed new light on the poet and change literary history. Roland meets Maud Bailey, who is actually a descendant of LaMotte, and the two uncover a multitude of love letters between the two poets. It turns out that Ash and LaMotte had a passionate love affair (Ash already having a wife, Ellen), and by re-tracing their steps and reading their letters they discover a beautiful story and hidden secrets.
Warning – if you don’t like poetry you’re probably not going to get on well with this book, there are a lot of verses. I think that was probably what impressed me most about this novel, not only that Byatt imagined these two poets, but that she constructed their poems herself, verses which can only be described as accomplished and magnificent. The way that we learn about the love between Ash and LaMotte is through the same way that Roland and Maud discover it – through reading the letters, biographies, journal entries, fairy tales and deciphering the poems, and is in my opinion, a unique way to tell a story. Not only that, but Byatt writes in a multitude of voices and styles, for the numerous characters present in this book and their differing personalitites. This book was definitely a worthy winner of the Man Booker prize, and I’m still stumped at how the hell she did it.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):