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3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  54,867 Ratings  ·  3,200 Reviews
Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany— ...more
Paperback, 555 pages
Published October 1st 1991 by Vintage (first published 1990)
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Edwin Not in the sense that it is explicitly, centrally erotic--these are Victorians. A central issue in the novel is whether or not the principals did have…moreNot in the sense that it is explicitly, centrally erotic--these are Victorians. A central issue in the novel is whether or not the principals did have sex on the romantic getaway that conceded their relationship. The heroine does have an ongoing lesbian relationship, which is again not explicitly rendered. On the other hand, the emotional texture is unusually complicated and profound; so I agree with Sharealindae.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 05, 2014 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people searching for beauty, academics
That was.. not what I was expecting this time.

I have to admit, I did not approach this book this time around with what I would consider pure motives. I wasn’t in it to find things I had never found before, to revisit a personal classic to explore ideas that I had left behind for the time when I was ready to connect with them in the way that they deserved. I wasn’t even in it to re-approach situations and characters with a new perspective of age and experience.

No, I needed something from this boo
Paul Bryant
Dec 04, 2013 Paul Bryant rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: my enemies

A honking great piece of literary self gratification, a novel about writers (all novels about writers should be given a concrete overcoat), a grand excuse for A S Byatt to dazzle us with some fancy ventriloquism, and yes you can feel the throb of the author's perfervid intelligence like a lawnmower hacking away at the tough grass at the edge of the lawn but after all of that you have to come clean and say that Possession isn't worth the thinnest novelette written by Raymond Chandler or the most
Marjorie Hakala
Apr 27, 2008 Marjorie Hakala rated it it was amazing
A while ago I said to myself, "I'm going to pay more attention to doing things that make me happy. So I'm going to cook more creatively and read more fantasy, because I keep forgetting I like those things."

Then I started reading Possession. The happiness project got put on the back burner until I was ready to emerge from the Victorian melancholia, which placed demands on my time too great to allow for preparing meals. I never cried at this book, exactly, but I frequently wept the way a lemon mer
Jun 18, 2015 Dolors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Possessors, possessed and skeptics
Stolen snapshots that defy the laws of space and time:

A poet observes a mystical creature, half woman half mermaid, scouting cliffs and creeks, bathing in unruly seas and still ponds, getting drenched in the cascade of his flowing words. The ache of losing God is not so acute when intellect is met with incandescent creativity. Or with unrestrained love. His gentle curiosity breathes life into inert things, making them shine with an inner glow of their own, because he doesn’t aspire to posse
OK I have to say something. People keep writing reviews of this book and talking about how it was great except for all the boring poems which they skipped through.

READ THE POETRY, PEOPLE! What's the matter with everyone?? They're actually rather good, they are full of plot clues, and, duh, they're a key part of the novel you're reading. I mean what is going on here? Do people really hate poetry so much that they're skipping a few pages of it in the middle of a story? If you try that shit with Ha
Jennifer (aka EM)
Nov 12, 2009 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grad students &/or those seeking confirmation that academia is a poor career choice
Too much work for too little reward.

I read somewhere that if you pick up a book, and you're not enjoying it by either: a) your age (if you are under 50); or b) 100 minus your age (if you are over 50), you should abandon it and move on. There is too much to read and life is too short to be spent reading bad books.

I think this applies particularly to books in that grey zone, where you can tell the writer is winding up to something, and the style and story has enough ooomph in it to keep you poweri
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
I just finished reading A.S. Byatt’s novel, Possession, again for about the fourth time. It has been several years since I last read it, and I have to say that I saw it in a completely new light. It is a literary masterpiece that is exquisitely plotted and written.

This time around I very carefully studied the epigraphs leading off most of the chapters and all of the beautiful poetry included in the text. I don’t know that I gave much more than a cursory glance to the poetry during previous read
Jan 03, 2008 Alison rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: literature nerds, romantics, people who have some spare time
Shelves: alltime100novel
O.K., I finally finished Possession! Here goes.

Possession is a highly celebrated novel by A.S. Byatt that contains two story threads. The first story could be categorized as historical fiction. We learn about the relationship of fictional poets Christabel LaMotte and R.H. Ashe through old journal entries, letters, and their "poetry" (the poems were actually created by Byatt, since the two authors never actually existed). Ashe was married, and LaMotte was in a relationship with a woman. But we co
"With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog! Want to see my book report?" -Calvin & Hobbes (Bill Watterson)

Indeed, Calvin. You speak the truth. And thanks to slogging through a sample portion of that intimidating & impenetrable fog known as Possession, I've learned an important lesson. Lend me your ears, gentle reader -- I'm about to whisper another truth that's been missing from your day-to-day literary drudgery.

A.S. Byatt is smart.

Oh, yes. A.S. Byatt i
Oct 13, 2015 Mona rated it liked it
Artfully Told Tale of Academics, Victorian Poets and Romance

I wanted to like this book more than I actually did.

Many Goodreaders really like this metafictional novel, which contains a story (and poetry) within a story.

There is much to admire here.

The author skillfully interweaves two time periods. One was 1987 (close to the time the novel was written), the other nineteenth century Victorian England.

She not only invents two poets, but writes a lot of their poetry. The skill and brilliance involv
Jun 15, 2009 Kim rated it it was ok
Shelves: disheartening
I picked up this book because I had seen it in a recommended reading site and then a friend said that it was really good. But...
Yes, there's a but... it took me 3 tries to get past page 10. I should have known then... but (again with the 'but') I persevered... thinking that I would eventually get into it, that I would get to the meat of it. By, page 300 I felt like I was trapped. I had already invested this much time into it and felt, at that point, that I had to finish it. I'm not saying tha
For me, Possession is like a bottle of wine or a box of really good chocolate (the really, expensive and sinfully good kind). There is an aboluste beauty in this book, and it seems to lie in the details. How all the characters still in character, the resolution to both romances at the end, all the touches about criticism - all these ring true.

Over the years I have read this book, my favorite character has gone from Maud to Leonora then to both. Leonora, it seems to me, is so much larger than lif
Dec 03, 2014 Mosca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mosca by: Kris Rabberman and Aubrey

It is a special treat to discover a book that ends so intelligently, so intuitively, and so emotionally beautifully---all at the same time.

This book is sophisticated in its construction and its literary detail. It requires a good deal of attention and focus on the part of the reader during its first half. And the details of its parts, the virtuosity of its styles, and the puzzles that it is assembles kept me fascinated. The writing is so good. And as the s
Riku Sayuj
Jul 09, 2012 Riku Sayuj rated it really liked it
Shelves: booker-winners

Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you?
And did you speak to him again?
How strange it seems, and new!

But you were living before that,
And you are living after,
And the memory I started at—
My starting moves your laughter!

I crossed a moor, with a name of its own
And a certain use in the world no doubt,
Yet a hand’s-breadth of it shines alone
’Mid the blank miles round about:

For there I picked up on the heather
And there I put inside my breast
A moulted feat
Jul 07, 2012 Marialyce rated it liked it
Shelves: june-2012, july-2012
I almost feel like some kind of traitor to the culture of extremely well written books to only rate this novel a three. However, any book that takes me almost two months to get through and makes me read it in only short spurts is not one I would rate a five book.

Yes, the writing, the theme, the characters are all superb, but the very writing and characters are what bogged down this novel for me. I have never been nor will ever be a fan of poetry in any shape or form. I will even readily admit, I
Nov 26, 2008 Manny rated it really liked it

Brilliant literary puzzle-book, including a well-realised fictitious author loosely based on Tennyson... one of the best attempts of this kind since Pale Fire. Some people think the book is too clever by half, but what do you expect? Just as constructive to criticise Powell for including too many characters who are upper-class twits, or Proust for not making his sentences short and punchy...
Patrizia O
Gli uomini vanno al martirio ovunque
deserto, cattedrale, Pubblica Piazza.
Lontane dall'ebbrezza dell'Azione
altro è il nostro destino
trascinare lunga una Vita
in una stanza oscura.
Christabel LaMotte

Qual è l’enigma? Io sono il mio stesso enigma. Oh, Signore, non dovete per gentilezza cercare di migliorare o togliermi la mia solitudine. A noi donne insegnano a temerla - ah, la torre spaventosa, ah, il roveto che la circonda - nessun nido accogliente, un torrione piuttosto. Ma ci hanno mentit
Jan 09, 2012 Sherien rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ayu
Shelves: 20th-century
"I cannot bear not to know the end of a tale. I will read the most trivial things – once commenced – only out of a feverish greed to be able to swallow the ending – sweet or sour – and to be done with what I need never have embarked on. Are you in my case? Or are you a more discriminating reader? Do you lay aside the unprofitable?"

I have never encountered a novel such magnificent and beautifully written as this. A.S. Byatt undeniably has an outstanding ability in literature and it makes it clea
Apr 11, 2016 Deea rated it it was amazing
I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d
On the cold hill’s side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!”

La Belle Dame sans Merci - Keats

Christabel LaMotte is
It is astounding how naturally and fluidly this book progresses, through past centuries and present ages of poetry and literature; a record of the constant need of the people now to know the passions that drove the people of before. Everyone wants to know what happened in their own way, to understand the person behind the particular passage that touched their heart and decided their future. The ending is balanced in that while the old love was not fully lived out, it still came to fruition gener ...more
Jan 19, 2010 Tatiana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
No, can't do it. 2 hours into it and not a glimmer of hope. Man Booker Prize winner and was referred to as the best ever romance novel in one of my favorite books, but alas, I am giving up. Might be more suitable for people who love reading books about books and literary research. Or maybe I am just not smart enough... Painfully reminded me of "The Historian" too.
Sep 22, 2013 Jane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Where I got the book: my bookshelf. A re-read.

I have always tended to quote Possession as one of my favorite books, but... Do you find that every so often you re-read a favorite and feel like this is probably the last time you're going to read it? Well, it was like that. I just didn't get that luminous glow from Byatt's writing that I always have in the past, although naturally I admire her brilliance and especially the ability to write original poetry in two different styles that come across as
Oct 12, 2015 Bruno rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporanea, uk
Da dove iniziare? Un'esperienza di lettura ricca, complessa, sconfinata! La narrazione si svolge su due piani temporali diversi: da un lato abbiamo una coppia di giovani ricercatori universitari, Roland Michell e Maud Bailey, e dall'altro due poeti vittoriani, Randolph Henry Ash e Christabel LaMotte. Il ritrovamento di un carteggio tra i due scrittori, fino ad allora inedito, metterà in moto quella che può definirsi una sorta di spy story accademica, dove i due studiosi moderni si lanceranno nel ...more
Oct 14, 2012 lanalang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Notevole, erudito, denso, passionale, lirico, avvolgente, non è solo un romanzo, è anche un poema e la Byatt è una scrittrice con la esse maiuscola, oltre che una grande letterata.
Non si può descrivere la bellezza di questo libro, bisogna solo aprirlo e goderne. È come stare in contemplazione davanti a un'opera monumentale, non so perché, ma mi viene in mente il Taj Mahal. È come conquistare la cima di una montagna dopo una faticosa salita, dove le asperità non mancano, lo ammetto, ma poi, ecco
Branwen Sedai *of the White Ajah*
Apr 29, 2015 Branwen Sedai *of the White Ajah* rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Now and then there are readings that make the hairs on the neck stand on end and tremble, when every word burns and shines hard and clear and infinite and exact, like stones of fire, like points of stars in the dark-readings when the knowledge that we shall know the writing differently or better or satisfactorily, runs ahead of any capacity to say what w know, or how. In these readings, a sense that the text has appeared to be wholly new, never before seen, is followed, almost immediately, by th ...more
Grace Tjan
Oct 02, 2009 Grace Tjan rated it really liked it
“How many lies did it require to make
The portly truth you here present us with?”

Randolph Henry Ash, the fictional Victorian poet whose life and secrets form the heart of Possession, is called ‘The Great Ventriloquist’, a sobriquet that could very well be applied to A.S. Byatt herself, for her astonishing rendition of all the different voices of the novel’s various characters. From her pair of Victorian poets, for whom she crafted numerous period poems and letters, to excerpts of Professor Croppe
Dec 28, 2008 Lightreads rated it liked it
Two scholars in the late 1980’s, one the devotee of a famous Victorian poet and the other a successful feminist literary theorist, embark on an academic adventure as they discover and trace a startling and unknown love affair between their respective Victorian subjects, and begin to have one of their own.

I’m going to say up front and flatly that this book is very, very clever, and that I was disappointed with it.

I’ll take it in order, though – cleverness first. The style and the writing are noth
May 20, 2013 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
Possession is exactly that, an exhilarating capture of that readerly surrender. There are elements of obsession in Byatt's detective of letters saga, but such isn't the soul. The focus here isn't on the pathological. The draughts of language which overtake us like some miner's canary flow. The scholar and the poet face each other across the divide. Time's passage and vanity blur the causal arrows. The readers remain the beneficiaries.

Please don't view the film adaptation. Thank you.
Clif Hostetler
Feb 15, 2015 Clif Hostetler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
This is a ponderous and prodigious novel that follows a cast of present-day (circa 1980s) academics pursuing documentation that will reveal the relationship (i.e. affair) between two fictional Victorian era poets. The structure of the novel incorporates many different styles, including fictional diary entries, letters and poetry. Some of these are chapter length and their connection to the book’s plot are not always apparent. A reader who is able to slog through all the way to the book’s ending ...more
Possession is a many-layered story, cutting back and forth between the past and the present, of two modern scholars who find a set of lost letters between two Victorian poets and go on a quest to discover the truth of their affair. I love its richness of voice: the modern-day narrative focusing on the two scholars, Roland and Maud; the poetry and letters of the poets; diaries, biographies, letters, journals of many other characters. On my latest readthrough, I found myself thinking a lot about t ...more
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A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize winner Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Ey ...more
More about A.S. Byatt...

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“I cannot let you burn me up, nor can I resist you. No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed.” 155 likes
“No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed.” 138 likes
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