This is the story of Margaret, a plain, bookish spinster (the old fashioned term in deliberately chosen, as this book really has a feeling from an oldThis is the story of Margaret, a plain, bookish spinster (the old fashioned term in deliberately chosen, as this book really has a feeling from an older time) who becomes the biographer of Vida Winter (shades of Rebecca, anyone) the dying grand dame of english 20th century writers. Margaret, who has issues herself, slowly peels back the layers of disinformation that Vida has herself constructed around her life story, to reveal the true individual beneath, and in so doing becomes a more decisive, healed human being. For anyone who misses the great old gothics, from Jane Eyre to Rebecca to the Woman in White. ...more
This book follows the lives of two women -- a mother and a daughter. The daughter comes to realize her mother is not who she said she was, that duringThis book follows the lives of two women -- a mother and a daughter. The daughter comes to realize her mother is not who she said she was, that during world war II she was a spy and afterwards changed her name and assumed a different identity. The book follows the two women's lives in the present and in the past; the one in the past is by far the more riveting. I found this book well written and exciting, but was let down by the ending, which is why I am not giving it five stars....more
This is a marvelously different mystery. The detective, an inspector from Scotland Yard, is flat on his back in the hospital and very bored, so one ofThis is a marvelously different mystery. The detective, an inspector from Scotland Yard, is flat on his back in the hospital and very bored, so one of his friends suggests he unravel a historical mystery from the past -- and he picks the unsolved mystery of whether Richard III of England murdered his two nephews in order to steal the crown for himself. With the help of a researcher Inspector Grant delves into the 15th century, researching the eyewitnesses and the motivations of the alternative suspects and comes up with some fascinating answers which I won't reveal. But it is the unique style of this novel that has made it such a classic. It is pure mental/intelligence work, and all the more impressive for that. A true tour de force, especially for those of us who are history addicts....more
I found this a very strange book. The characters were not generally sympathetic and the writing style seemed stiff. The atmospherics were good, and thI found this a very strange book. The characters were not generally sympathetic and the writing style seemed stiff. The atmospherics were good, and the plot was intricate and kept me reading til the end. Yet ultimately all these disagreable people cheating and plotting against one another left a bad taste in my mouth....more
While this is not a classic, I loved it. A mystery set in the past, interesting characters, litererary allusions galore, and all happening in beautifuWhile this is not a classic, I loved it. A mystery set in the past, interesting characters, litererary allusions galore, and all happening in beautiful Tuscany....more
I love books in which modern day characters research people from the past and uncover a mystery, so I found Possession captivating, though I admit thaI love books in which modern day characters research people from the past and uncover a mystery, so I found Possession captivating, though I admit that the two Victorian poets were much more interesting than the present day researchers and their gradually deepening relationship. I liked the female protagonist, Maud Bailey, but found Roland, her co-digger, very sad-sacky and dull. However, all the old letters and diaries kept me going and A. S. Byatt is a wonderful writer, so I would rate this a very satisfying read....more
I had to beat myself to finish this book, which is sad as I was so looking forward to it. A modern day story of a young woman who returns to her homeI had to beat myself to finish this book, which is sad as I was so looking forward to it. A modern day story of a young woman who returns to her home town (Templeton, based on Cooperstown, N.Y.)and in the process of searching for her father's identity, uncovers many secrets among her ancestors. I loved that there was to be a mystery as well as a lot of history. Well. It didn't take long to start gagging at the overwrought, self-consciously literary style of writing, and soon thereafter I discovered that I couldn't stand the heroine, a self-centered, spoilt, infantile woman whom the author clearly sees as spunky and spirited. Due to time constraints, I listen, via recorded books, rather than actually read, most of my books, which accounts for why I took this tome all the way to the end -- it is easier to hit the "on" button when you're driving in a car than it is to sit down and proactively pick up a book which you find irritating and slightly boring in equal measure. I admit I was curious to find out who the father was, and some of the "historical journals" were just outrageous enough to pique my curiosity. But what a disappointment. ...more
**spoiler alert** Okay, I'm starting a new shelf: riveting novels spoiled by bad endings. As you might guess, this book falls in that category. It kep**spoiler alert** Okay, I'm starting a new shelf: riveting novels spoiled by bad endings. As you might guess, this book falls in that category. It kept me devouring the pages until the very end. I thought the author did a great job of reproducing the Victorian feel of the era, as well as of the writing. But ultimately the ending revealed so many inconsistencies that I can only give it three stars. This book has been compared to Wilkie Collins, but the Moonstone or The Woman in White it ain't.
One of the things that put me off at the beginning was the fact that the narrator commits a murder and saunters off to eat oysters afterwards. So right away, you know he's not going to be very sympathetic. He takes drugs, enjoys the seamier side of Victorian London, carries on an affair with a nice woman even though he's in love with someone else, and has a job that involves underhanded dealings. Then, unexpectedly, he starts becoming more sympathetic. It turns out he HAS legitimately been badly treated, deprived of his inheritance and his title. He was devoted to his mother. He falls in love with a woman who is his intellectual equal. And he's a passionate reader. Because of this murder he committed, you know that things cannot end well, but there is enough going on that you're curious. The relationship with the woman is very promising. But then clues start to emerge suggesting she is not everything she should be. From that point on (150 pages or so before the ending) there's not too much suspense, and the dangerous clever fellow of the first two thirds becomes a fool who's been played by a siren. Which makes him, and the book, a mishmash. Not satisfying.
Other disappointing aspects: there is not a single major player in this story who is sympathetic, and that includes the employer who "loves him like a son" but who uses him to do dirty jobs that the law firm doesn't wish to tackle. The woman is really well rendered and very likable, until she turns out to be a completely different person from what we thought. The hero's real father (if you can call the main character a hero) is very unsympathetic, as it is, to a lesser degree, his real mother. And the villain, who is ridiculously named "Phoebus" never actually appears on the scene. So who is there to root for or against?
In short, I was riveted, but ultimately felt the novel failed because I ended up let down and unsatisfied.