Saturday, December 08, 2007

Book Review: Possession: A Romance

I'm not the first one to say this, but Possession: A Romance is a brilliant book. I would highly recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in literature. I started the book expecting an intellectually engaging experience (which I got, and then some), but I wasn't expecting the narrative to turn out to be as compelling as it was. It is a story, essentially, about a pair of English scholars who make an important discovery that a pair of Victorian poets (one famous and one lesser-known) had a relationship that no modern scholar had discovered. A story around the two scholars develops as they discover the story behind the relationship between the two poets. Both stories are fascinating and compelling, and Byatt proved that she has a real talent for story-telling on top of her talent for creating an intellectually-stimulating book. You wouldn't expect a book about a pair of English scholars researching a pair of Victorian poets to keep you up late at night because you can't put it down, but it did.

That's not to say that it doesn't have its lulls. The book is brimming with references to and uses of British literature and literary theory, as well as long, complicated poems and long letters and journal entries. I'm sure I only picked up on and understood a small fraction of the literary allusions in the book, and because of my poor poetry-reading skills, I skipped some of the longer poems embedded in the book. I also skimmed over some of the unearthed letters and journals when they went long. Still, trying to catch some of the many literary allusions was part of the fun (at least for me), and if I didn't have the patience for something, I had no problem skipping or skimming. As my recommendation implies, this book is not for everyone. Byatt is brilliant and erudite and she expects a lot of her readers. But underneath it all there is a truly compelling story with one of the most perfect endings that I have ever read.


Darth Spencer said...

A perfect ending to a beautiful romance novel? She must die of cancer. No, wait. I bet both the women die of cancer. If so, then this book is on par with other great romances such as A Walk to Remember, Charly, and Love Story.

Excellent recommendation.

cblakes said...

Wow, sounds cool. Maybe this will be my vacation book.

Ian said...

I would say the ending is not as good as A Walk to Remember, but it was better than Charly. I didn't read Love Story, so I can't comment on that ending. I can say that it does involve death, but that's not saying much where two of the main characters have already been dead for 100 years.

Katie said...

I know you really enjoyed this book--even my talking to you didn't always stop you from reading :). I think you are just the erudite person to read it.