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This was on my Top Ten list, and I noticed that it cropped up on a number of other people's lists too.


Why do you love it - if you listed it? Anyone out there hate it - and why?


My guilty secret is that though I love the book, I always say, "This time I read it, I'm really, really going to read all the poems, too" - but I always end up skipping them :o


I love the way the two time frames are intertwined, and the combination of romance and detective story. I love the two modern day academics grow together, from such an unlikely start. Writing this is making me want to rush off and reread it!


Though I love this, I haven't read much else by A S Byatt - what else is worth a try??

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Just been doodling around on google for no apparent reason, (I'm not even supposed to be on the internet at the moment! :o ) and I came across this wonderful essay by A S Byatt, on how she came to write Possession - it's really, really well worth a read.


Choices: On the Writing of Possession


My very tenuous claim to fame. A. S. Byatt was good friends with the English teacher of the friend who recommended Possession to me. Go on, admit it, I can tell you're impressed :D

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I really enjoyed this book, although I too did not read all the poems! I also have the video of the film with Gwyneth Paltrow in it - I'm afraid it is not very good and not a patch on the book!


We did it at the reading group I go to and I know I wrote down a list of loads of other books by this author - I'll try and find it!

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That's a great essay Claire- thanks for posting it. I particularly liked the section where she described her gestalt as green and gold because that seems to me to be the exact colours of the novel, if you can allow that novels can be colours :) And the episode where the poems wrote themselves sounds rather scary!


I'm like you - if I had been reading this book I would have skipped the poems, but as I listened to it I didn't have any choice. Although I'm not sure they added anything to my enjoyment of the novel so I will feel justified in skipping them in future. I tend to be a surface reader - deep and meaningful allusions go over my head - so I enjoyed this novel for the characters and the mystery. I always enjoy reading about writers and I like part epistolary novels too, combine that will a page-turning mystery and its a winner.


I'm babbling now...

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Why not try her short stories. I recommended Possession to my son when he was doing his GCSE's 8 years ago, he went on to do a Masters which included a dissertation on Possession.


Ooh, yes, I have read some of her short stories. They weren't quite what I expected, really. Set in modern academia, largely, but with genies in lamps, and all manner of imigrants from the world of fairy stories. I did enjoy them, once I got past the, "What the heck is going on here", factor! Thanks for the suggestion.

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  • 6 months later...

I've just finished reading this book for the second time, at about 3am this morning! It is brilliant, but I do feel a bit like 'why am I putting myself through this again?' because it is quite painful too. As a real glutten for punishment, I've just watched the film adaptation too, this afternoon. The film misses out about 80% of the plot and characters, but also I think misses the point, its just accidental in the film that the 'detectives' are academics, but in the book its important, to do with theories and biographers and archivists! The essay is really interesting, its interesting to hear what her inspirations were.


I got quite different ideas of what the main idea of the book was from the book and from the film, and wondered what you all think of this too - do you think the main thing is about the romance itself? or about academics and readers and meanings they put into texts? or about a past moment being briefly connected to the present?


In the film there is a lot of Maud worrying that relationships mean nothing - I don't think there was as much of that in the book, it seems the characters are more concerned about getting past all the baggage of being modern and trying to find romance too...? But in the film i was struck by the idea that maybe the thing that is supposed to give the Ash-Lamotte romance meaning is the child - the actual physical link to the present? which is quite a modern idea itself really, not that romantic at all, kind of admitting that the thing driving their romance was a biological urge to reproduce. Do you think the romance is only supposed to have meaning because it is now known about? The passage where Maud says how different it must have been in the 1850s because they would have felt their love really mattered but were the lovers supposed to have thought it mattered in itself or does the preservation of the letters show that they wanted it to be known too? and the secret meanings in the poems? I enjoyed reading the poems - maybe not all of them in detail but I enjoyed how you can see new layers of meaning as you find out more.


The only thing I was glad about in the film was Jennifer Ehle playing Christabel - she's so brave to have taken on that part, as she was to have played Elizabeth Bennett, thank goodness she does the characters justice. Is there no part she is afraid of?! But I thought that section of the film was well done.


I wish AS Byatt would do an author Q+A on here! Any chance Claire...? There are so many things to think about in this book. The next thing I meant to read after this (coincidentally) was Jane Austen's letters, but I don't know how I feel about that now... I'll definitely be looking out for gaps but trying not to assume I can see the real person...the letters are a sort of fiction too really aren't they?


I'm so glad the first time I read Possession I hadn't been to university yet, for one it gave me a real suspicion of literary theory which I think it healthy! But if I had been first I would have perhaps seen the theory side of the novel a bit too much, instead of falling for the story first and foremost. Then again there are thing which I get more now, the essay by Leonora is hilarious, reminded me of all sorts of essays my feminist medieavalists who see anything, absolutely anything, as sexual organs/metaphors for sex/introduce concepts that surely can't possibly have been in the minds of the writers at the time.

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  • 1 year later...
  • 3 years later...

Dull, dull, dull! One dimensional characters and a boring storyline. I struggled to three quarters of the way through then realised I had a life and better things to do and walked happily away from it. Safe in the knowledge that I'll never let another A S Byatt novel near me again. :)

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  • 5 months later...

Cathy, I'm glad you posted this. I remember meeting you and finding BGO through this book, so it's responsible for me being here. :D

Anyway, it's interesting how we see different things every time we read the book again. I've read it three times now, the first time I just skipped the poems (I'm not much into poetry), the second time I had a glance at them and the third time I really read them. Doesn't mean I understood them a lot better, though. I'm just not a poetry person.

Anyway, I agree with you, Cathy, the book is very different from the film, as usual. But that doesn't mean that I didn't like the film, on the contrary, it was actually quite good despite the fact that it seemed so different.

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  • Similar Content

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      ...so far.

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    • By Flingo
      Rescued Thread

      Flingo 3rd March 2006 03:43 PM

      I have just seen that in past book groups there has been a poll at the end to guage overall feeling. Although I suspect there will be a resounding "Excellent" I would be interested in seeing how you vote.

      (Hope no-one minds me doing this - sorry if I am stepping on your toes).

      elfstar 3rd March 2006 04:08 PM

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      Tess 3rd March 2006 04:36 PM

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      Momo 3rd March 2006 09:39 PM

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      Cathy 4th March 2006 08:59 PM

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      Thumbsucker 5th March 2006 09:54 AM

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      Claire 5th March 2006 08:13 PM

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      MarkC 9th March 2006 11:41 AM

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      Momo 9th March 2006 05:40 PM

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      Seraphina 10th April 2006 12:23 PM

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      belwebb 16th June 2006 05:30 PM

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      megustaleer 17th June 2006 11:48 AM

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    • By Momo
      I know this is from another thread but I cannot find Possession at all under the group reads and if we ever find it, it can be moved there. Anyway, here's the rescued thread: Meanings of Names

      Momo 10th January 2006 10:52 PM
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      Cathy 11th January 2006 02:59 PM
      Thank you Momo! That's fantastic. Is the meaning of Wolf from Randolph from the word or from what happens in the novel? The dual nature as shield/wolf is really interesting.

      Just in case:

      Momo 12th January 2006 03:57 PM

      Yes, that was it. As I said, I couldn't find anything about ash and the meaning etc. but I did remember we talked about it.

      Cathy 12th January 2006 04:11 PM

      I think you're spot on. She calls him a 'dragon' in some of the letters. Also

      greg 2nd August 2006 11:40 AM

      Link between Maud & Christabel's surnames

      megustaleer 2nd August 2006 09:44 PM

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      Do let us know a little about yourself and your reading tastes by posting in the introductions thread in Central Library.


      greg 3rd August 2006 09:02 AM

      Ah, Megustaleer,

      I've just realised that I repeated you - you commented on Motte & Bailey castles in the "poll" thread. My apologies.



      megustaleer 3rd August 2006 10:23 AM

      No problem, it's easy to miss a comment when discussion ranges over several threads!
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