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Possession ~ A. S. Byatt

December 11, 2010

Genre: Adult Fiction/Literary
Publisher: Vintage
576 pages
ISBN:  9780679735908
Source: Library

Feeling washed up and worn out, Randolph Henry Ash scholar, Roland, is about to throw in the towel. His girlfriend, Val (a former scholar, herself), has found a “sensible” job and wishes Roland would just do the same.

Things change, one afternoon, when lo and behold, Roland stumbles across a piece of Ash’s past that will send his colleagues and competitors into a whirlwind chase for the glory of bragging rights and the hope of historically charged romance.

Though the book is well written and incredibly layered, there was depth lacking, for me at least. Despite  weighing in at over 550 pages, it seemed a little bit rushed. It might have been better served to have been played out in a series or, at least, two books.

That said, I obviously would have read more of it, had there been more to read.

I enjoyed the characters a great deal and was not bothered by the three-dimensional, noir-like villains (they actually made me smile, a lot). The true beauty was not in present day (well, 1990’s present day) character development but in the evolution of the characters not shown: Ash and his literary correspondent as the subjects of the academic artifacts.

Of course, as any fine writer accomplishes, Byatt succeeds in at least some transfer of life altering change from the subject of study to those doing the study. The book watches those wandering in the badlands of rejected academia come around to the spark they once had. It also sees several lives, formerly entrenched in walled confinements of emotionally devoid solitude open up to receive love through unexpected paths.

Over all, I think it was a fine read if not as fleshed out as it could have been and has encouraged me to read a little bit more of Byatt’s work, down the road. It has  also given me a bit of a different view regarding the wide variety picked for Booker winners, each year as Finkler and The Sea differ greatly from Possession.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2010 5:22 pm

    This is on my 2011 list, since I just acquired it in 2010. thanks for the great review.

  2. December 12, 2010 11:53 pm

    This is one of my favorite books, and it actually inspired me to read more poetry. I am glad to hear that you mostly liked it. I am hoping to read more Byatt this year!

  3. December 13, 2010 12:58 am

    Possession is my very favorite book ever. Every time I read it, I get something new out of it.

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