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Possession - restored threads

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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
Meanings of Names

Okay, I promised Cathy ages ago to look through my notes from our earlier discussion and post the meaning of the names some of us found. I have spoilered the notes since I don't know where everyone is.

 


Christabel – worshipper of God, good Christian
LaMotte means "clump of earth" in french. (Moth in German)
Blanche - white
Randolph – shield, wolf
Ellen – light, mercy

Maud – tower, strength in battle
Roland - Knight
Roland (Knight of Charlemagne)

Mortimer comes from the Old French, meaning "lives near the sea" or "dead sea" or "still water".
Maybe Mortimer is meant to stand for the "devil" or "Hades"
Mort - it is common in literature. Also Mortuary, mortal, mortified, etc.

Christabel's house in Richmond is called "Bethany" and it is on Mount Ararat Road.
The name Bethany means "House of Misery"
Mount Ararat is the mountain in Turkey where Noah's Ark landed after the flood waters receded.

We also had some explanation to the name Ash but I cannot find that.

Somewhere, the “Ash Factory” is compared to Dante’s Inferno and the upper part of the British museum as paradiso which is a nice picture.

Any other ideas?

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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:

 


On Ash, the meanings I can think of are Ash tree and ashes - particularly the saying 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust' and with that LaMotte meaning earth... the Ash tree image makes me think of Ask and Embla who are Adam and Eve figures in the Ragnarok poem, which was (fictionally!) written before he met Christabel, and crop up again in the love poem Ask to Embla written for Christabel.

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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.

 


As to the Randolph meaning, I checked my notes again and couldn't find where it came from. I think somebody found it as an explanation and we all thought it was a good one and we could relate it to Randolph and his relation to Christabel.
I mean, on one hand, he is shielding/protecting her from the outside world during these four weeks they spend together, on the other, he "devours" her as a wolf devours his sheep by making her attached to him and changing her life forever - more than his life is changed.
What do you think?

-------------------------------------------------

Cathy 12th January 2006 04:11 PM

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

 

he shields Ellen, from himself, from the annulment of their marriage which he could undoubtably have obtained. The references to him 'burning up' Christabel are also linked to his name. Bethany is quite an odd name for a house, given its meaning...how odd!

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greg 2nd August 2006 11:40 AM

Link between Maud & Christabel's surnames

 


In the UK, one of the old castle designs you sometimes find is the "Motte and Bailey" which nicely links the Surnames of both Maud and Christabel.
Also links with more 'tower' references - and maybe with the title of the poem by Browning (who Ash is allegedly based on) Childe Roland to the dark tower came.

-------------------------------------------------

megustaleer 2nd August 2006 09:44 PM

Thanks for that, greg, and welcome to BGO. Possession was a very popular book, and it's good to open up he discussion again. I'm sure there are members reading it who have joined since it was our bookgroup choice, and some folks ready to read it again.

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.

greg

-------------------------------------------------

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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Same here, another rescued thread:

So, what did you think?

 

Flingo 3rd March 2006 03:43 PM

 

So what did you think?

 

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

 

I am glad to see this although I think you are right in how it will be judged. I was nothing like as enthralled by it as I expected to be and have found the other discussions rather intense. :o

 

 

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Tess 3rd March 2006 04:36 PM

 

An 'indifferent' for me. The basis of the story was excellent but I just found it a chore to get through and the poetry nearly finished me off!

 

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Momo 3rd March 2006 09:39 PM

 

I've already read it three times and my paperback is falling to pieces. So I have decided that I need another copy - something I hardly ever do. Therefore, I am sure you can guess my vote! :D

 

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Cathy 4th March 2006 08:59 PM

 

Its so nerve-racking when something you love is up for public debate! But I'm glad some of you liked it and I'm sorry some of you didn't!

 

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Thumbsucker 5th March 2006 09:54

 

I thought the book was very good. It's one of those where you read in awe of the author. All those subtle links and metaphors. I, like some of you, struggled with the poetry. It wasn't that I found it boring, just that I knew that was so much in it. Perhaps that's why I couldn't give it an excellent. It's no reflection on the novel but more on the sort of reader I am. I fall into the 'so many books so little time, can't possibly reread one' camp. This is a book that needs to be reread and revisited and perhaps if my attitude to reading changes I will come back to it. The story has stayed with me though and I'm glad that it was a group read because I don't think that I would have read it otherwise.

 

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Claire 5th March 2006 08:13 PM

 

Excellent, without a shadow of a doubt. This is my third or fourth reading, and the first time I've properly read the poetry, rather than skimming it and I'm glad I finally did that, it added an extra layer to the story, which I enjoyed.

 

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MarkC 9th March 2006 11:41 AM

 

First reading for me. I loved it, although I did skim the poetry as I found that hard going.

 

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Momo 9th March 2006 05:40 PM

 

***

Quote:

Originally Posted by MarkC

First reading for me. I loved it, although I did skim the poetry as I found that hard going.

***

 

I think most of us did that at our first read, there's just too much to think about. But - even though I'm not a great poetry friend, I read and really enjoyed it the second time around.

 

------------------------------------------------

 

Seraphina 10th April 2006 12:23 PM

 

I have just read this, inspired by Cathy's enthusiasm about it and I wasn't disappointed. I have to admit I hit a wall at the beginning of the first set of letters between Christabel and Ash, and actually went off and read something else in the meantime, but once I got on a roll and got through the first part of the letters I ended up really enjoying them as they got more and more personal.

 

Like others I found the poetry hardgoing, particularly as I was reading it mostly on the tube in dribs and drabs which doesn't really help! I intend on buying my own copy (as I'm sure Cathy will want hers returned!) and giving it a more concentrated reading in perhaps a few months' time.

 

I loved the way it all linked up together, although I did find the ending a little too 'neat' - however I'm hard to please in that respect as I don't like endings that feel 'unfinished' either! I was getting quite frustrated that

Ash may have never known about his daughter, and didn't like that, but when I read the scene where he does meet her I didn't find that satisfying either - it felt a little - contrived, is that the right word? ALthough I did like the idea that they all thought the hair was Christabel's when it actually wasn't.

I also liked the way we as the reader know more than the scholars, and so when they feel as if they have everything figured out we can feel almost superior, although i did find it hard to keep track of what we knew and what THEY knew!

 

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belwebb 16th June 2006 05:30 PM

 

Possession

 

It took some work for me to 'get into' at the beginning, and then at one point I was enjoying the letters, but then, about a third of the way through I just lost interest - just like that. I found it a bit too dense - which is no surprise from Byatt, but then it wasn't something I had personally chosen to read - it was on my Post War Novel module in my second year!

 

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megustaleer 17th June 2006 11:48 AM

 

Perhaps you'll be tempted to try it again if you read all the enthusiastic comments in these threads :)

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And another one - First part:

Victoriana:

 

Cathy 15th December 2005 01:39 PM

 

Victoriana

 

No spoilers!

 

How much do you know about Victorian poets and the Victorian period? I must confess I am woefully ignorant of much of the background, so much so that

 

the first time I read this book I had to check with someone that the characters didn't really exist (that's not a spoiler is it?!) because I found the whole thing totally believable.

On the third reading, I'm more aware than ever of my ignorance, but I hope that this is a book I can keep returning to over time and maybe each time will understand it a little better. I do find the overwhelming masculinity of those poets off-putting though, even though I know I should try them.

 

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MarkC 15th December 2005 02:44 PM

I've only read 45 pages so far and I found myself heading to google to determine the very same thing.

 

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David 15th December 2005 02:49 PM

I suppose this cuts back to another discussion in Central Library about how interested people are in biographical details, the period etc.

 

I thrive on all that, but you can enjoy books like this easily enough without knowing it. I suppose a key question, Cathy, is whether this has made you interested in reading more Victorian poets. Doesn't sound like it because of the masculinity angle, but they're not all like that. Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are (obviously!) female poets, and there are others, like Matthew Arnold, whom you might find more appealing.

 

Also, anyone interested in the Victorian literary and cultural world might like to visit this site:

 

Victorian Web

 

It has a multitude of links that are varied but generally informative.

 

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Cathy 15th December 2005 07:05 PM

 

There's a little thing in chapter four made me think of exactly this - two of the characters talking about why they like the writers they do, one of them says its 'what survived their education'!

 

Its taken me three reads, but this time I do feel more interest in Victorian poets, the first two times I was just enjoying a good story.

 

Thanks for that link! Interesting stuff. Typically, I'm straight away looking for the section on costume :rolleyes:.

 

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Adrian 16th December 2005 07:03 AM

 

spoilered just in case:

 

It's nice to see that we're all on the same page (groan). I had moments myself in the opening chapters, why I asked myself, "Why have I never heard of this famous poet?"

 

And not just the once either. Is R.H. Ash based on anyone? I suspect she's too good a writer to do so, and my poetry knowledge is mediocre at best so I'm not likely to spot any similarities

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Cathy 16th December 2005 01:34 PM

 

On the poems, here an extract of what Byatt said about the writing of them, also spoilered just in case:

 

There was a huge problem. I knew that modern forms were parodic- not only Eco, but the intelligent criticism of Malcolm Bradbury had been pointing that out - parodic, not in a sneering or mocking way, but as "rewriting" or "representing" the past. The structural necessity of my new form was that the poems of my two poets, the most important thing about them in my own view, should be in this no-longer ghostly text. And I am not a poet, and novelists who write poems usually come to grief. Robertson Davies, the Canadian novelist, had written a novel with a parodic libretto in fact made up of the poems of Thomas Lovell Beddoes. I said to the poet D.J.Enright at a party, that I was contemplating using the early poems of Pound that look as though they could be by Browning. "Nonsense," he said. "Write your own."

 

So I tried. My mind has been full since childhood of the rhythms of Tennyson and Browning, Rossetti and Keats. I read and reread Emily Dickinson, whose harsher and more sceptical voice I found more exciting than Christina Rossetti's meek resignation. I wanted a fierce female voice. And I found I was possessed - it was actually quite frightening - the nineteenth-century poems that were not nineteenth-century poems wrote themselves, hardly blotted, fitting into the metaphorical structure of my novel, but not mine, as my prose is mine.

The whole article is here, warning, SPOILERS! I would wait until you've finished the book just in case: http://www.asbyatt.com/Posses.htm

 

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Adrian 20th December 2005 07:18 AM

 

I'm almost halfway through now so don't read unless you are too:

 

The more I read of the book, I'm afraid the less I am reading the Victorian poetry. It's no doubt my difficulty, but when I started the long piece from Ragnarök II in chapter 13, I didn't finish it.

 

I don't see that it affects the present-day story and look forward to appreciating the poetry more the next time round. It's not just RH Ash, I've had The Borough and A Shropshire Lad on my TBR pile for years.

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Claire 22nd December 2005 09:40 AM

 

I've just read and enjoyed Swammerdam, by Ash. I loved the form of it, the taking on of another's voice as if it's one side of a conversation. I guess it's called a Dramatic Monologue - is that right?

 

Can anyone advise where I might find real life Victorian poets who write in that way? The nearest I can think of is My Last Duchess, which I very much enjoyed when we studied it at school - but I can't remember who it was by!

 

And the fairy tale, by Christabel La Motte, where might I find more to read in that vein? (By the way, her surname is a feminine, french version of "The Word", isn't it. Only just noticed that!)

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and the second one on Victoriana:

 

Adrian 22nd December 2005 10:15 AM

 

***

Quote:

...(By the way, her surname is a feminine, french version of "The Word", isn't it. Only just noticed that!)

***

 

Yes, it's obvious now you mention it. I'm on the limits of my schoolboy French, but I remember Le Mot Juste.

 

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Cathy 22nd December 2005 11:43 AM

 

I think Motte actually means something like clod of earth, I have the exact meaning somewhere, will find it!

 

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David 22nd December 2005 12:43 PM

 

***

Quote:

Originally Posted by Claire

Can anyone advise where I might find real life Victorian poets who write in that way? The nearest I can think of is My Last Duchess, which I very much enjoyed when we studied it at school - but I can't remember who it was by!

***

 

Dramatic monologue - spot-on, Claire!

 

'My Last Duchess' (much-used in schools) is by Robert Browning, who is certainly one of the greatest Victorian poets. These dramatic monologues are his speciality, and there are some great ones. I hunted the net a little for a good Browning site, but disappointingly he doesn't seem very well represented. There's this one:

 

Browning

 

but it has a very limited selection. If you can get your hands on an anthology or collection, then try the following:

 

'Up at a Villa - Down in the City'

'Two in the Campagna'

'Apparent Failure'

'Porphyria's Lover'

'The Bishop Orders his Tomb'

'Love Among the Ruins'

'Andrea del Sarto'

 

He also wrote 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin' for kids, and most famously of all, 'Home Thoughts From Abroad' ("Oh to be in England/Now that April's there..." - often mis-quoted as 'here'!)

 

There's something almost novelistic about climbing into the different psychologies and unfolding a story, which does make this interesting poetry. The writing is gloriously subtle, though, and you can have great fun teasing out the hidden truths in the characters' words.

 

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Claire 22nd December 2005 09:03 PM

 

I knew I could rely on you for a helpful answer, David :arms: Thank you.

 

I found most of the titles you mention on the Robert Browning pages of the PoetryX site, if anyone else wants to check them out.

 

If anyone can add any thoughts on parallels to Christabels fairy tales, do shout.

 

---------------------------------------------------------

 

Cathy 23rd December 2005 12:55 PM

 

I hope the first-timers will read the re-reading thread when they've finished!

 

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megustaleer 26th January 2006 09:25

 

I remember there being a lot of discussion about the poems when it won the Booker, so I have not been puzzled about their authorship

It does mean that I am skimming through them (at least Ash's long and convoluted ones), half thinking "well, thet aren't real poems"...which is hardly fair on ASB

Having started to read so long after the rest of you, and having a set time in which to finish (other bookgroups to read for), I am rather forcing the pace, which is making it less enjoyable for me, and is not doing it justlce.

 

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Momo 26th January 2006 10:28 PM

 

***

Quote:

Originally Posted by megustaleer

Having started to read so long after the rest of you, and having a set time in which to finish (other bookgroups to read for), I am rather forcing the pace, which is making it less enjoyable for me, and is not doing it justlce.

***

 

If you will like this book, you will enjoy it and come back to it later. I have just read it for the third time and get to enjoy it more and more every time I read it.

I wouldn't worry too much about skimming through the poems, I did that the first time, as well, especially since I'm really not a huge poetry fan. But I did read them all the second time around and thoroughly enjoyed them.

 

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      Flingo 4th January 2006 10:47 PM

      ...so far.

      I can really relate to this from Chapter 6:

      [Cropper] arrived, reasonably satisfied, at Barratt's Hotel, which he had chosen partly for its comfort, but more because American writers, visiting Ash, had stayed there in the past.

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      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

      I am glad to see this although I think you are right in how it will be judged. I was nothing like as enthralled by it as I expected to be and have found the other discussions rather intense.



      Tess 3rd March 2006 04:36 PM

      An 'indifferent' for me. The basis of the story was excellent but I just found it a chore to get through and the poetry nearly finished me off!



      Momo 3rd March 2006 09:39 PM

      I've already read it three times and my paperback is falling to pieces. So I have decided that I need another copy - something I hardly ever do. Therefore, I am sure you can guess my vote!



      Cathy 4th March 2006 08:59 PM

      Its so nerve-racking when something you love is up for public debate! But I'm glad some of you liked it and I'm sorry some of you didn't!



      Thumbsucker 5th March 2006 09:54 AM

      I thought the book was very good. It's one of those where you read in awe of the author. All those subtle links and metaphors. I, like some of you, struggled with the poetry. It wasn't that I found it boring, just that I knew that was so much in it. Perhaps that's why I couldn't give it an excellent. It's no reflection on the novel but more on the sort of reader I am. I fall into the 'so many books so little time, can't possibly reread one' camp. This is a book that needs to be reread and revisited and perhaps if my attitude to reading changes I will come back to it. The story has stayed with me though and I'm glad that it was a group read because I don't think that I would have read it otherwise.



      Claire 5th March 2006 08:13 PM

      Excellent, without a shadow of a doubt. This is my third or fourth reading, and the first time I've properly read the poetry, rather than skimming it and I'm glad I finally did that, it added an extra layer to the story, which I enjoyed.



      MarkC 9th March 2006 11:41 AM

      First reading for me. I loved it, although I did skim the poetry as I found that hard going.



      Momo 9th March 2006 05:40 PM


      I think most of us did that at our first read, there's just too much to think about. But - even though I'm not a great poetry friend, I read and really enjoyed it the second time around.



      Seraphina 10th April 2006 12:23 PM

      I have just read this, inspired by Cathy's enthusiasm about it and I wasn't disappointed. I have to admit I hit a wall at the beginning of the first set of letters between Christabel and Ash, and actually went off and read something else in the meantime, but once I got on a roll and got through the first part of the letters I ended up really enjoying them as they got more and more personal.

      Like others I found the poetry hardgoing, particularly as I was reading it mostly on the tube in dribs and drabs which doesn't really help! I intend on buying my own copy (as I'm sure Cathy will want hers returned!) and giving it a more concentrated reading in perhaps a few months' time.

      I loved the way it all linked up together, although I did find the ending a little too 'neat' - however I'm hard to please in that respect as I don't like endings that feel 'unfinished' either! I was getting quite frustrated that


      I also liked the way we as the reader know more than the scholars, and so when they feel as if they have everything figured out we can feel almost superior, although i did find it hard to keep track of what we knew and what THEY knew!



      belwebb 16th June 2006 05:30 PM

      It took some work for me to 'get into' at the beginning, and then at one point I was enjoying the letters, but then, about a third of the way through I just lost interest - just like that. I found it a bit too dense - which is no surprise from Byatt, but then it wasn't something I had personally chosen to read - it was on my Post War Novel module in my second year!



      megustaleer 17th June 2006 11:48 AM

      Perhaps you'll be tempted to try it again if you read all the enthusiastic comments in these threads
       
    • By Claire
      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
       
      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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