I first read this book for a college course on the 20th century British novel, many years ago. I’ve read it at least 4 more times since then.

Where to even start?

Well, I’ll start with the obvious–I love this book. It gives me the chills. It intrigues, entrances, and enchants me.

The story is this: two academics–the serious, professionally floundering Roland and the detached and haughty Maud–make a discovery. The two Victorian poets that they study appear to have had a secret correspondence which scholars had never guessed at. As they start following the rabbit trail of one unfinished letter, more documents emerge and pieces of the story start falling into place. Gripped by this unfolding story, Roland and Maud start unearthing clues and traveling together, determined to follow this 19th century drama to its conclusion. They travel through England, to a crumbling old estate, to the coast, to France, and finally to a graveyard, driven by that wonderful motivator: plot!

The book is composed of straight-up narrative, old journals by a variety of authors, letters, and the work of these two Victorian poets, Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte. The myriad points of view make the story rich and compelling. One of the things that astounds me is how much of a voice these two poets have. It’s a testament to the amazing skills of A.S. Byatt that after reading the novel for the first time, I thought these two poets really existed. I thought Byatt was just reproducing large swaths of their work, but no–she made them up. And then wrote the most beautiful poetry in each of their distinct (and distinctly Victorian) styles.

This book is a romance embedded in a romance, a mystery, and an adventure. There is some sex, but nothing insane. It’s beautifully written, the characters are painfully imperfect and gloriously alive, passionate and creative. Seriously, this book will grip you in the gut and hang on to your heart until the very end. Nab it from your library or on you e-reader! And a cup of Irish breakfast tea (with a little milk and sugar) is the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon immersed in these pages.

9 thoughts on “Possession

  1. Suzie

    This sounds like one I would enjoy. I love sitting outside (when it’s nice of course) with a good book, nothing like soaking up some vitamin D :)

  2. Skippymom

    Thank you. With such a glowing review how can I not pick this up this weekend. I just finished three American tomes – and I am ready for something a little more uplifting than “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “The Jungle”. The would be depressing even if they weren’t based on fact.

    I look forward to your choice. :)

  3. Veronica

    I’m stoked b/c many of the books you review are unavailable in audio format at my library, but this one is!! I have requested several of your book review in audio form since I’m a “friend of the library” and have a little sway with what gets purchased so hopefully I’ll get to “read” the others too. I do like a good romance, especially if it’s not raunchy, and this sounds like a great story. Can’t wait to listen to it!

  4. Julia {The Roasted Root}

    One of my New Years resolutions was to read two books a month (so far, I’m failing miserably, but that’s beside the point)…I’m always looking for an interesting read and this sounds great! I’ll take a trip to the library and check it out.

  5. Joanne

    I need to spend WAY more afternoons immersed in good books like this. And just get back on the reading for pleasure bandwagon in general!

  6. Kimby

    Jenna, this book sounds like such an intriguing combination of storytelling and poetry! How awesome to be able to pen both and combine them with romance, too. You give excellent book reviews!

  7. kate

    And there are more! A.S. Byatt has written lots of rich and haunting books- I particularly enjoyed The Childrens Book, and I was lost in her trilogy that I can’t remember the name of for over a month. Wow. That was intense. Also, Jenna! Have you read Susan Howatch? The Starbridge series? If not, do- and let me know what you think. -kate

  8. Mary

    What a rave review. It certainly makes the search for the book worthwhile. I am new to your site and have been browsing through your earlier posts. I’m so glad I did that. You’ve created a marvelous spot to visit and I’ll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  9. Amy W

    Hello! I came across your blog through a link at the side of a friend’s blog – thought I should say hello as I’ve been following you for a few weeks now! : )

    I haven’t actually read Possession, but I love the film – well parts of it anyway! (Jennifer Ehle of BBC Pride and Prejudice fame plays Christabel, and I find her portrayal really annoying!) Have you seen it? Of course if you love the book that much you might not want to see it in case it spoils things for you! : )


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