Customer Reviews


119 Reviews
5 star:
 (71)
4 star:
 (23)
3 star:
 (10)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (11)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A finely crafted masterpiece from a tapestry of subgenres
A S Byatt's Booker Prize winning novel, "Possession", isn't just the literary sourcebook for the current movie of the same name. It is SERIOUS LITERATURE for SERIOUS READERS, so Movie Tie-In fans expecting a compactly written synopsis of the film are well advised to stay away. But if you're a literature aficionado, and wading knee deep in long flowery poems, obscure...
Published on Sept. 5 2002

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It Proves that Critics Should Stay Critics
After a failed attempt to read Possession ten years ago, I finally managed to trudge through it for the sake of my monthly book club. Apparently, not much has changed for me in ten years because I hated the book then, and I hate the book now. I say "hate" because I cannot stand to see a potentially great storyline overwhelmed by useless (and completely boring)...
Published on April 1 2002 by J. Kastanias


‹ Previous | 1 212 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A finely crafted masterpiece from a tapestry of subgenres, Sept. 5 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Possession (Audio Cassette)
A S Byatt's Booker Prize winning novel, "Possession", isn't just the literary sourcebook for the current movie of the same name. It is SERIOUS LITERATURE for SERIOUS READERS, so Movie Tie-In fans expecting a compactly written synopsis of the film are well advised to stay away. But if you're a literature aficionado, and wading knee deep in long flowery poems, obscure verses, beautifully but wordily written letters and journal entries isn't a problem or better still, your cup of tea, there's much in "Possession" that will delight and enthrall you.
Subtitled "A Romance", "Possession" is more than the coupling of an ancient with a contemporary love story, though the movie adaptation may have you believe that. Victorian poet Randolph Ash didn't just have a dirty weekend with fairy poetess Christabel LaMotte. Their secret liason did however result in an awkward outcome that should not surprise readers. In Byatt's hands, their love affair is cloaked in mystery and cerebral splendour and though it may be hard to fathom the foundation of their mutual attraction, its credibility doesn't suffer because the affair isn't played out in real time but reconstructed and deduced from fragments of evidence from the past. It's like examining a black and white print through frosted glass. As for the coupling of modern day academics Maud Bailey and Roland Mitchell, those who have read the novel but not seen the film may be surprised that their relationship has been characterised as a romance. That to me is surely the crudest way of depicting Maud's and Roland's journey of self discovery as they collaborate in their research into the murky past of Ash & LaMotte and then join up in their undertaking to secure ownership of the invaluable evidence they have uncovered.
The flowing poems and verses may be the novel's styling, the romance its subject, but "Possession" is above all a thriller and a breathtakingly exhilarating one at that. No violence, bloodletting or shootouts, only treachery of the kind practised by learned men of letters. They're all so civilised yet undeniably vicious in their scheming and stalking of one another, it's like having one's throat slit by paper. So fine and fatal. Byatt's enactment of the final scene at the graveyard, where she calls upon the elements to unleash their destructive power, is a dramatic coup de grace that would translate perfectly on screen.
A S Byatt is a difficult novelist. Not surprisingly, "Possession" - her grand opus - doesn't make easy reading but a more finely crafted entity drawing upon a tapestry of subgenres you will not find. Truly a modern masterpiece. It'll be a tragedy if younger readers remember it as the book that inspired the film. Don't let that happen. Go read the real thing !
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A heavy but worthy read..., April 10 2002
This review is from: Possession : A Romance (Paperback)
Possession is probably the most difficult but unique book I have ever read. A.S. Byatt is obviously very talented and much deserving of the Booker Prize. Possession is truly a tour-de-force of many facets, although the writing style and complexity of the story may be a bit much for some.
Roland Michell, an academic and researcher of the 19th century poet, Randolph Henry Ash, has stumbled across something that could change the very foundation of his research: two drafts of a letter that Ash sent to a mysterious woman, who later is found to be another poet, Christabel LaMotte. Roland enlists the help of the LaMotte scholar, Maud Bailey, to fit the puzzle pieces together. The fact that Ash is married and LaMotte a supposed lesbian and feminist makes this journey of discovery one that will change the face of history as they've known it. And as their research takes them further along, the mystery and suspense builds, letter by letter, until the fascinating climax at the novel's end.
This book, regardless of its stunning display of talent, will not be for everyone. It took me on a roller coaster ride throughout with its high and low points as my interest in the story waxed and waned. Interspersed with poetry, diary entries, letters, and passages from books makes Possession a very unique and creative novel; however, these things which make it unique also has the capacity to tear it down -- some of the poetry could have been left out, and the letters, albeit important to the story, were at times laborous.
Possession is a literature buff's dream novel. Reader's who enjoy 19th century British literature and can actually understand poetry of that century will get more out of this novel than I did. Throughout my reading, my rating hovered between 3 and 4 stars, but decided to round up simply for the fact that Possession is truly a novel of dynamic proportions. It'll just take me a second read-around to understand it better.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, Oct. 22 2007
By 
Linda Bulger (United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Possession (Paperback)
POSSESSION has been on my shelf since 1991. I read it because it won the 1990 Booker Prize, and once under its spell, I've never wanted to let it go. A.S. Byatt -- sister of award winning novelist Margaret Drabble -- tells a complex story within a story, moving back and forth between modern-day scholars Roland Michell and Maud Bailey, and the fictional Victorian poets who are the subjects of their research.

Victorian literature can seem like a dry and rocky road, but Byatt foreshadows and advances her story with the poetry, letters and journals of the Victorian pair, whose love affair is revealed as the research progresses. From simple lyric poems ("They say that women change: 'tis so: but you / Are ever-constant in your changefulness ...") to complex narrative poems and stories, they are well integrated with the story, though sometimes lengthy. The Victorian scene comes to life most successfully, and it's astonishing how fluently Byatt moves not just from present to past, but among the many different literary forms of the two Victorians.

The story within a story, or more specifically the unraveling of a mystery from the past, is a popular device. It's been used in Josephine Tey's DAUGHTER OF TIME, THE MOONSTONE by Wilkie Collins, THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco; and more recently, THE DANTE CLUB and THE POE SHADOW by Matthew Pearl, THE RULE OF FOUR by Caldwell and Thomason, even Dan Brown's blockbuster THE DA VINCI CODE. Byatt weaves her two stories together beautifully: POSSESSION may be the standard by which to judge this type of book, as both stories are richly developed and rooted in the idiom of their time. The Victorian imagery reveals the love affair between the poets, and eventually between Roland and Maud, with its typical mix of emotion and restraint. The modern story satirizes the British academic scene.

POSSESSION may not be the easiest book I ever read, but it's among the most rewarding. If you haven't read it in the many years since it was first published, then I recommend it to you.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It Proves that Critics Should Stay Critics, April 1 2002
By 
J. Kastanias (West Palm Beach, FL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Possession : A Romance (Paperback)
After a failed attempt to read Possession ten years ago, I finally managed to trudge through it for the sake of my monthly book club. Apparently, not much has changed for me in ten years because I hated the book then, and I hate the book now. I say "hate" because I cannot stand to see a potentially great storyline overwhelmed by useless (and completely boring) details.
The poetry is horrible. The characters are flat. The diaries are completely unnecessary, with exception of a few sentences here and there of importance. Everyone I talk to claims to have skimmed or skipped over the superfluous parts of the book. I'm sorry, but anything I have to skim or skip for the sake of finding the plot or characterizations isn't a novel, it's homework. (And rather than finding that "challenging," I just find it annoying...a challenging read does not have to be tedious.)
I think what bothers me the most is that A.S. Byatt believed she had the creative talent to pull this off. I was thoroughly unconvinced that the poetry in the book was created by "great" poets worthy of the adoration and examination given by the modern-day characters in the book. Perhaps that is part of the satire, but if it is, it is not compelling enough to keep me interested.
The book has no flow to it and actually reads like a critic wrote it. It is dry and egotistical. I felt like I was back in undergraduate English classes being forced to read the arrogant interpretations of great literature by critics--only in this case, the great literature is missing.
Similar to religious zealots who believe there is only one way to interpret the bible, critics believe that they are somehow able to crawl into the minds of great writers so they have the definitive understanding of their works. While opinions and research are necessary to promote debate, if one believes a critic's interpretation to be fact, the literature suffers. Byatt seems to want to make fun of this, but she fails.
Honestly, I wish Byatt would recognize her limits and let a good writer handle her stories. Possession would be a much more compelling read without the weight of the useless junk Byatt forces the reader to skip.
But, to borrow from Dennis Miller....This is just my opinion, I could be wrong.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overdone, Self-Congratulatory, but Good, May 1 2000
By 
Amy J. Ashcroft "daysleeper48" (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Possession : A Romance (Paperback)
A.S. Byatt must have written this book with Booker-Prize intentions. This is a book for people who like to be able to say they read "Literature," and like to pat themselves on the back for catching all the connections and overdone allusions.
I'll agree with many that she is an extremely talented writer. But, while her books are well-written and witty, they aren't necessarily moving or of the life-altering sort. I guess I just felt she tried too hard to assure us how smart she (and we) are rather than show us a unique portrait of humanity or elicit emotional responses other than a "chuckle" for catching all the wittiness.
Despite my negative remarks, I can appreciate Byatt's talent and knowledge of the romance (not the kind you pick up at the grocery store) genre. I read it for a class and it did spark quite a bit of discussion. I recommend reading it when you want to feel smart, and don't have a "must read" book on your to-read pile. Then you can say you've read it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 0 stars, if I could, Feb. 29 2000
By 
Ex Libris (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Possession : A Romance (Paperback)
I have found that this book tends to really draw responses at either end of the spectrum. People either hate it or love it. I hated it. Just as several other readers wrote, I could not get into the characters. It was torturous trying to finish this huge book about people I could not connect with. One other reviewer wrote that this book is for literary intellectual types. Not true. I am what most people would call a literary intellectual type, and I though this book was awful. But, I do know several people who loved it, and if you are the type who finds the ivory tower of academia romantic, then this book is for you. If you would rather read a book that deals with real life, your time will be better spent reading any Alice Munro short story.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars poetry, Sept. 13 2000
By 
Tom (Athens, GA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Possession : A Romance (Paperback)
The poetry here is a terrible chore-- The imagined letters a horrible bore-- This woman's writing is awfully clumsy-- She uses cliches like a matronly mummsy-- Infelicitous phrases, as common as hookers-- I wonder and wonder how she won that Bookers-- and yet, and yet, its quite a good story-- as brilliant and lovely as some Morninglory-- so let me just tell ya in a voice that's stentorian yer probably better off reading some REAL Victorian!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten passion, June 12 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Possession (Paperback)
"Possession" is far above and beyond the kind of books usually labelled "romance." It's lushly written, with exquisite characters, great poetry and interweavings of legend and myth. It's almost chastely erotic, mysterious and dripping over with Victorian-era romance. It's hard not to be drawn in.

A young scholar, Roland, stumbles accidently on an old letter from acclaimed poet Randolph Ash. He soon has reason to believe that the letter was to Christabel La Monte, a lesser-known "fairy" poet -- except Ash was happily married, and La Monte was single all her life. Roland and the chilly fellow scholar Maud investigate caches of hidden letters, poems, and diaries by the lovers, wife, friends and relatives.

In the past, the cordial letters of Christabel and Randolph blossomed into love and passion. They vanished for a short, blissful time together. But what happened to Christabel and Randolph's love, and why did Christabel leave England, while her companion Blanche committed suicide? And how do these events somehow involve Roland and Maude's own growing attachment?

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and in "Possession" it's a valuable historical tool. When words are hidden or read, it can change perceptions and even lives. Byatt's own words are wonderfully lush, dreamy and vivid. Given the rather formal language and writing, it almost seems like a nineteenth-century novel, as if Byatt got so swept up in the characters that she started writing like them.

Byatt has an excellent eye for the language of the era. The letters, poetry and fiction of Christabel and Randolph have a very authentic feel. Especially since Byatt manages to change tones for different people's writing (Christabel's poetry was a bit reminiscent of Emily Dickenson's). The only problem is when the book veers into long tangents; Byatt seems to get a little off-track there. But most of the time, the richness of Breton legend adds depth and mystery to an already beautiful novel. The sunken city of Is, the legend of Melusina, and many others are here.

Byatt gives us an amazing look at the ill-fated lovers, Christabel and Randolph; you can feel their passion and love. They aren't just attracted to each other, but drawn together in the mind and spirit. The supporting characters, such as the artist Blanche and devoted, wistful Ellen Ash, are equally well-drawn; you can't dislike any of them. Roland and Maud seem a little anemic by comparison, but they are still compelling characters, caught up in a love affair from over a hundred years ago.

After taking the recommendation of a good friend, I found that "Possession" is the kind of genuine, heartwrenching romance that you don't see much of -- meetings of minds, genuine passion and love. It's a beautiful thing, and something to be deeply treasured.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten passion, Aug. 31 2003
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Possession (Paperback)
"Possession" is far above and beyond the kind of books usually labelled "romance." It's lushly written, with exquisite characters, great poetry and interweavings of legend and myth. It's almost chastely erotic, mysterious and dripping over with Victorian-era romance. It's hard not to be drawn in.

A young scholar, Roland, stumbles accidently on an old letter from acclaimed poet Randolph Ash. He soon has reason to believe that the letter was to Christabel La Monte, a lesser-known "fairy" poet -- except Ash was happily married, and La Monte was single all her life. Roland and the chilly fellow scholar Maud investigate caches of hidden letters, poems, and diaries by the lovers, wife, friends and relatives.

In the past, the cordial letters of Christabel and Randolph blossomed into love and passion. They vanished for a short, blissful time together. But what happened to Christabel and Randolph's love, and why did Christabel leave England, while her companion Blanche committed suicide? And how do these events somehow involve Roland and Maude's own growing attachment?

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and in "Possession" it's a valuable historical tool. When words are hidden or read, it can change perceptions and even lives. Byatt's own words are wonderfully lush, dreamy and vivid. Given the rather formal language and writing, it almost seems like a nineteenth-century novel, as if Byatt got so swept up in the characters that she started writing like them.

Byatt has an excellent eye for the language of the era. The letters, poetry and fiction of Christabel and Randolph have a very authentic feel. Especially since Byatt manages to change tones for different people's writing (Christabel's poetry was a bit reminiscent of Emily Dickenson's). The only problem is when the book veers into long tangents; Byatt seems to get a little off-track there. But most of the time, the richness of Breton legend adds depth and mystery to an already beautiful novel. The sunken city of Is, the legend of Melusina, and many others are here.

Byatt gives us an amazing look at the ill-fated lovers, Christabel and Randolph; you can feel their passion and love. They aren't just attracted to each other, but drawn together in the mind and spirit. The supporting characters, such as the artist Blanche and devoted, wistful Ellen Ash, are equally well-drawn; you can't dislike any of them. Roland and Maud seem a little anemic by comparison, but they are still compelling characters, caught up in a love affair from over a hundred years ago.

After taking the recommendation of a good friend, I found that "Possession" is the kind of genuine, heartwrenching romance that you don't see much of -- meetings of minds, genuine passion and love. It's a beautiful thing, and something to be deeply treasured.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars only Byatt could make research sexy!, June 16 2003
By 
This review is from: Possession : A Romance (Paperback)
A.S. Byatt is a master and this is her master work. She is not only a brilliant storyteller and a crafter of beautiful prose but she is also a professional scholar, so she knows what it's like to spend countless hours in dusty archives in search of enlightenment or even truth. This book is an academic fantasy, flawlessly recreating the obsession one feels when on the trail of a great research topic, the ecstasy of finding the one magnificent piece of evidence that suddenly makes years of effort worthwhile, as well as the almost blind passion with which many scholars imbue their subjects with their personal point of view--and the paradigm shifts that must occur when that view is challenged.
But this book is no mere academic mystery tale. Byatt wins my heart by consistently drawing characters who are intellectually gifted yet emotionally flawed and not always certain of their place in their chosen--unreservedly critical--profession. In Possession, her researchers are not only intellectual but human and vulnerable, struggling to unearth an emotional life that equals their intellectual one.
Not for everyone, but for people who require a smart read in addition to a great story, this one is a classic.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 212 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Possession: A Romance
Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt (Library Binding - June 26 2008)
CDN$ 27.34 CDN$ 26.82
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews