As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

February 21, 2011

Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt, 1990

PossessionThe novel concerns the relationship between two fictional Victorian poets, Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte, as revealed to present day academics Roland Michell and Maud Bailey. Following a trail of clues from various letters and journals, they attempt to uncover the truth about Ash and LaMotte's past before it is discovered by rival colleagues. (Wikipedia)

Review by Jessica Day George, Young Adult and Middle Grade Author, Bookshop Talk Host

I have heard this book described as porn for literary buffs, which is hilarious and not totally inaccurate.  Now, before you begin to think that I’m leading you astray, remember that that was a JOKE.  It’s “porn” in that it’s about two underappreciated literature professors who make the find of a lifetime and fall in love along the way.  Roland and Maude go on a wild adventure, and uncover a secret love that has been hidden beneath the noses of their superiors for years, validating their own careers and rocking the literary world.

It’s vindication for anyone who has ever written a scholarly paper on a topic only they seemed passionate about.  It’s also a beautiful book, mixing the modern day story of Roland and Maud with the forbidden love of Randolph and Christobel in the 1800’s.  I loved all the characters, Victorian and contemporary.  I loved the way they interacted, I loved the way Byatt described them, from their mannerisms to their clothes. 

The image of Maud, all in green, unfolding her tall slim self from her small, round VW Beetle will be forever in my mind, along with pictures of Randolph and Christobel sitting on the train, too shy and well-mannered to hold hands.  This has been one of my favorite books since I first discovered it in the late 1990’s, and sometimes I have to pull it off the shelve and just read a page or two, just to get that little thrill of delight!

There is also a movie version, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Ehle, Aaron Eckhart and Jeremy Northam.  It’s not as good as the book, but it’s a lovely film all the same.

MARKET: Adult literature

Book formats:

To learn more about the author, visit: A.S. Byatt

To learn more about the reviewer and her published novels, visit: Jessica Day George


Laura Howard said...

I've heard lots of good things about this book, and about AS Byatt in general. I think it's been on my TBR list for about five years! Thanks for the great review!

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard of this one! It sounds wonderfully romantic. As far as the movie goes, I haven't seen it either, but I LOVE Jennifer Ehle! I've only seen her as Elizabeth Bennett in the looooooong BBC of Pride & Prejudice (AMAZING), but still. Love her. And Jeremy Northam (Mr. Knightley!)! It sounds like a great movie AND book.

Amy Finnegan {} said...

I've almost bought this book before . . . looks like it's time!!

Great review, Jessica!