Kelly's Reviews > Possession

Possession by A.S. Byatt
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Aug 05, 14

bookshelves: fiction, brit-lit, po-mo, victorian-wannabes, favorites, 21st-century, grande-dames, its-the-quiet-ones, grand-opera
Recommended for: people searching for beauty, academics
Read in September, 2013, read count: 3

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 book.

I can’t really think of any other way to put this, really: I was self-medicating with this book.

I’ve heard this talked about in so many different ways, if perhaps not in those words, by other book lovers that I know that I can’t be the only one who does this. I came back to this book because of the transformative experience I had the last two times. I needed to be transformed. I’ve fallen into a new line of work in recent years, and I.. well, there are a lot of things that I’ve seen that I wasn’t prepared for. It’s the sort of work where I’ve felt the need to create an entirely separate daytime persona to feel brave enough and competent enough to get through the day, one that I consider separate from what I would consider myself. I come home at the end of the day and spend my time trying to reconnect with the other person I know I am and want to continue being. Some days I can even stay awake long enough to get some of her back. It isn’t that it is necessarily objectively that horrible of an experience. It’s just something where the vast majority of the time I spend during the day is spent in tasks that are for the most part not suited to my personality or many of my strengths. It also involves things that I would personally prefer not to be part of my life. I chose this job because I had become so disillusioned with the ivory tower academic path I was on that I chose the most opposite thing that I could think of to do that still fell within the realm of my skills and education. After years of being shut up inside a library going crazy inside my head, I got sick of the whole exercise as a merry-go-round of narcissistic and masochistic head games. I decided I just wanted to be useful, do anything that didn’t leave me time for that nonsense. I think that I am useful, sometimes. Sometimes I help. Sometimes I go home and don’t wake up in the middle of the night worried, or check my email at 10 pm just in case.

But goddamn, it’s just… it’s ugly sometimes. It’s tiring, and isolating, and my daytime persona is taking over more and more of my time. There are things about her that I like and I think would benefit me if I could adopt them outside a situation of necessity. But there are things that I desperately want to save about the person that I can only be after work hours, which I have less and less time for. What I would gain is not worth what I would lose-I am lucky enough to have enough time with my other self banked right now to be able to say that with certainty. It’s the only fucking reason I can write this review right now- I’ve got the other one far enough at bay that I can only barely hear her screaming about what a fucking waste of time this is and what a terrible writer I am anyway and I should get back to doing something that fucking helps somebody.

I reached for Possession after two weeks of working twelve hour days and only one Saturday to restore my Self. I wanted it to bring me back to myself as fast as possible, though I'm sure I didn't think that consciously. I thought, Irememberthis , only, when I was lucky enough to see it on the shelf.

There are parts of this book that I have such a strong, bodily anchored memory of, that I have connected to so strongly that my body has a sense memory of what it should do at the time when I read those words. I am at the point with this book where I am not only remembering the scenes and words, I am doubling that over with my memories of myself reading them and feeding off of them, trying to make them a part of my immediate self again. It was a cycle of memory and experience, one feeding off the other to bring me back, make me disappear and make me whole again, here in the present.

I went to it looking for something that I knew wasn’t going to go away: beauty. I needed some beauty in my life so badly, and this is how you know the disease of bibliophilia has really set in- books are what I turn to when I need that. I go to books to remind myself that beauty exists and it is worth something and it is a part of me, no matter how much I forget that sometimes. There are some books that we readers can no longer do this with. Before I realized what I was doing this, it was happening for years with my constant re-reads of parts of Guy Gavriel Kay novels. He was my go-to until I read his latest novel and the spell was broken- I stayed in the present and analytical- that it wouldn't work again. That was when I started to figure out what I was doing because then I tried reading my favorite novel of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s, and similarly, rather than being swept away, all I could see was the melodramatic dialogue and some fucked up coded gender politics that I considered writing an enraged essay about. Some of this, sure, is perhaps about developing better taste and letting go of adolescent attachments. But more of it is about being so far away from what I like to think of as myself that there are days where I can’t get back.

Possession, though, it brought me back. It has not disappointed me yet. Parts of this book made me laugh and smile and exercise my brain in the way that I want it to be exercised, and alternately, it devoured me whole. There were parts where I came up gasping for air, and parts that I danced over lightly, barely reading, except for letting the pieces of a well-known structure fall reassuringly into place.. There were parts where the rhythm of it was enough, and parts where I read and re-read a page again and again until I felt I had understood it on many levels.

But mostly, it was all so much words, words, words, paragraphs and pages put together in just that way. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, for a read that looked to suck out whatever drop of beauty it could find, it was the “first-hand” personal accounts that stood out to me the most here- the letters and the diaries- each and every one of them a record of love, desire, becoming and stone-set final regret and loss, each and every one of them filtered though the love of words, writing and books, of the seeking, narrative embroidered kind that I recognize as one of my own:

”…I may write to you as I write when I am alone, when I write my true writing, which is for everyone and no one- so that in me which has never addressed any private creature, feels at home with you. I say “at home” what extraordinary folly- when you take pleasure in making me feel most unhemlich, as the Germans have it, least of all at home, but always on edge… But poets don’t want homes- do they?- they are not creatures of hearth and firedogs, but of heaths and ranging hounds. Now tell me, do you suppose what I just wrote is the truth or a lie?”

“Today I laid down
Melusina having come trembling to the end of this marvelous work. What shall I say of it?.... How shall I characterize it? It is like a huge, intricately embroidered tapestry in a shadowed stone hall, on which all sorts of strange birds and beasts and elves and demons creep in and out of thickets of thorny trees…”

“At first Roland worked with the kind of concentrated curiosity with which he read anything at all by Randolph Ash. This curiosity was a kind of predictive familiarity; he knew the workings of the other man’s mind, he had read what he had read, he was possessed of his characteristic habits of syntax and stress. His mind could leap ahead and hear the rhythm of the unread as though he was the writer, hearing in his brain the ghost-rhythms of the as yet unwritten…”

“We live in an age of scientific history- we sift our evidence- we know somewhat about eyewitness accounts and how far it is prudent to entrust ourselves to them.. So if I construct a fictive eyewitness account- a credible plausible account- am I lending life to truth with my fiction- or verisimilitude to a colossal Lie with my feverish imagination? Do I do as they did, the evangelists, reconstructing the events of the Story in after-time? Or do I do as false prophets do and puff air into simulacra?..”

“My dear Friend,
I may call myself your friend, may I not? For my true thoughts have spent more time in your company than in anyone else’s, these last two or three months, and where my thoughts are, there am I, in truth, even if- like the May, only a threshold-presence, by decree. I write to you now in haste- not to answer your last most generous letter- but to impart a vision…”

“I have dreamed nightly of your face and walked the streets of my daily life with the rhythms of your writing singing in my silent brain. I have called you my Muse and so you are, or might be, a messenger from some urgent place..”

“Oh Sir- things flicker and shift, they are indeed all spangle and sparks and flashes. I have sat by my fireside all this long evening- on my safe stool- turning my burning cheeks towards the Aspirations of the flame and the caving-in, the ruddy mutter, the crumbling of the consumed coals…”

“My dear-
The true exercise of freedom is-cannily and wisely and with grace-to move inside what space confines- and not seek to know what lies beyond and cannot be touched or tasted. But we are human- and to be human is to desire to know what may be known by any means…

I would not for the whole world diminish you. I know it is usual in these circumstances to protest- “I love you for yourself alone”- “I love you essentially”- and as you imply, my dearest, to mean by “you essentially”, lips and hands and eyes. But you must know- we do know- that it is not so- dearest, I love your soul and with that your poetry- the grammar and stopping and hurrying syntax of your quick thought-quite as much essentially you as Cleopatra’s hopping was essentially hers to delight Antony- more essentially, in that while all lips hands and eyes resemble each other- your thoughts clothed with your words are uniquely you, came with you, would vanish if you vanished…”

“I have been angry for so long- with all of us, with you, with Blanche, with myself. And now near the end, “in the calm of mind all passion spent,” I think of you again with clear love. I have been reading
Samson Agoniste and came upon the dragon I always thought you were- as I was the ‘tame villatic fowl’-

His fiery virtue roused
From under ashes into sudden flame
And as an evening dragon came
Assailant on the perched roosts
And nests in the order ranged
Of tame villatic fowl-

Is not that fine? Did we not- did you
not flame and I catch fire? Shall we survive and rise from our ashes? Like Milton’s Pheonix?

That self-begotten bird
In the Arabian woods embossed
That no second knows nor third
And lay erewhile a holocaust
From out her ashy womb now teemed
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most
When most unactive deemed
And though her body die, her fame survives
A secular bird, ages of lives.

I would rather have lived alone, so, if you would have the truth. But since that might not be- and is granted to almost none- I thank God for you- if there must be a Dragon- that He was You…”

See, that is the shit that matters. Fuck, I remember now. That is the shit that started me down this path in the first place, that lead me to make choice after choice that I thought was going there, even if it went somewhere different. That restored me again. I read the letters twice and Sabine’s diary slowly once, the sort of read that is three times over in reality. By the time I was done, my brain circuitry had slid back into it’s proper place, and I could answer the sort of basic questions that I couldn’t before I had started. I felt purged, like I had gone on a cleansing diet for a month. This is the sort of read that cleans out all the nonsense from my brain and leaves me with what is essentially important again.

It is a species of addiction- it works much the same as any other. I realize this. But for now, books like Possession, books that devour me and spit me out again remade… this is what keeps me in equilibrium, and keeps the self that I very much want to keep around from disappearing. They are my guide back. I am keeping this one, along with others of its kind, on my bedside table. I have a feeling I will need them again soon.

If anyone has any books to recommend that they turn to for beauty and rest, please let me know. I would love to add them to what I can only call my arsenal. Thank you.

* * *
ORIGINAL: I do so hate to be predictable, the girl who has victorian and victorian-wannabe shelves, and shelves for regency and romance and the-aftermath, and pretty much every other category that this would plausibly be generally shelved in (except, perhaps, pretentiousness-that's-worth-it...but we'll get to that later) but I really do love this book.

I'm going to have to go even further down the disgustingly adoring path and say that this is going to be a personal classic, for me. I don't argue that it needs to be taught in classrooms or become part of a modern canon or anything like that (though I'm certainly not against the idea), but it definitely meets the most important thing for me:

A different experience at every age/read- This is my second read through. The first time I read it was in 2002. I was 16 years old, and the movie was coming out. There was no way I appreciated this book beyond a few very shallow things. Why? 'Cause dude, there was a movie coming out with some of my favorite sexy people in it (Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehele), and duuuude it was about hot Victorians having hot sexy smart people sexy sex and their words were as hot as their hot costumes and hot modern academics (ooohmygood whoos this Aaron Eckhart, hellooo!) getting it on over books, books are so awesome... Ooh look, letters with smart people references in it that I understand, this is so cool that I get even a little of this, yay!... oh did I mention HOT VICTORIANS??

... Yeah, that was about the extent of my thoughts at the time, I think. I did cry at the end, but for the most simple of reasons, something that you could cry at a freaking Hallmark special on the Lifetime channel about.

Now? I am only 23, but I'm old enough to be mostly embarrassed for myself at 16 (though I still think parts of this book are smokin' sexy), and I do feel like I'm getting worlds and worlds more out of this book than I ever got back then, and I can see myself getting more and more as I grow older, as the characters do. There's so much in here that leaped off the page and spoke to me and both my every day little problems and the bigger opinions and feelings that I have about the larger things in life. And I know there are still vast things in here that I missed, things that I don't think I quite understand yet, or call bullshit at at the moment that I just know will be of comfort to me when I pick this book up again in ten years or so, in twenty years, in thirty years. And the fact that I know that I'm going to do that, that I expect my copy to wear out and that I'll have to get a new one before I die, well, that speaks volumes, doesn't it? This particular read I really attached onto the characters struggling to find out what to do with themselves, what they were worth, after the life prescribed by their parents and other authority figures ends, those characters trying to deal with what other people expect them to be as opposed to how they see themselves, creating the narrative of your own life, being your own person in a relationship, and the connections I keep making between this book and the ideas in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. There's a fascinating fight over spiritual beliefs that I don't have the headspace to deal with now, but is haunting the back of my head, and I expect to be obsessed with it the next time I read it.

So, yeah, that's what the good books should do to you.

There's also other things, like all the fascinating things she deals with in the book. I mean, just to rattle off a few: feminism, post-modernism, living in a post-modern world, deconstructionism, many many issues of religion and spirituality, cultural relativism and archetypes, living in a globalized world, negotiating the self in relationships, the academic life and petty infighting, etc, etc. And I do mean etc, etc, etc, because there's tons in here that I'm not even bringing up, and probably tons more that I missed. Which is why I think this book is a gold mine.

Now a lot of people say that they abandon this book because they find it too pretentious, or too self-gratifying, etc. I don't really think that's the case. I think a lot of the things that could be deemed 'pretentious' are being used by Byatt to make fun of the ridiculousness of some of the characters within who are indeed pretentious. Maybe it is just the subject matter- I don't know how you avoid pretentiousness when you're writing about overeducated Victorian people with literary tendencies. It probably does tend to go to your head, the way that all works. I can see that putting people off to begin with, but if you picked up the book already knowing it was about Victorian poets and squabbling Victorian scholars then I would think you'd be prepared for that kind of thing and be able to wade through it. Are all the full length Victorian style poems she includes pretentious? Probably. But man, if I could do that, I would want to do that too. And it isn't as if they are pointless. Most of the poems are clues to the mystery, clues to the characters themselves, especially as they get longer- they're not just there to create an ambiance. Plus, we hear so much about the poems and other peoples' interpretations of them its great to actually see the real things and judge for ourselves, and fits really well into the theme about people creating their own narratives out of the past according to their present needs, and I think reflects cleverly back on the reader. For me, all of that pretentiousnes is worth it, and I find it all brilliant, that's just my response to it. I usually think agree to disagree is bullshit, but when you get into literary experimentation, I think that's the only way to come out alive.

So anyway, I tore through this in four insanely obsessed days- and this on a re-read. So if you're into this kind of thing, leap right in. Leap, I tell you! It's the way to read this one.
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Quotes Kelly Liked

A.S. Byatt
“There are things that happen and leave no discernible trace, are not spoken or written of, though it would be very wrong to say that subsequent events go on indifferently, all the same, as though such things had never been.”
A.S. Byatt, Possession

Reading Progress

09/22/2009 page 167
32.94% "I was not old enough to appreciate this book properly beyond its Gothic hotness last time. Damn."
09/22/2009 page 200
39.45% "Okay, I know this isn't for everyone, but it sure as hell works for me."
09/23/2009 page 313
61.74% "I'm nowhere near as erudite as A.S. Byatt, and I don't think that matters. I'm okay with what I am getting out of this."
09/23/2009 page 450
88.76% "Okay, so diving into this book has gotten me to the point of getting me in trouble at work. Just like school all over again. Oops."
09/23/2009 page 500
98.62% "Almost... there..."
08/18/2013 marked as: currently-reading
08/18/2013 page 77
15.0% "So she may feel
Whisk past her skirt and scamper, hairy feet
Of an old gentle godling, who leaves tracks in the warm ashes, or whose grincing voice Laughs even in the cradle,
saying, "Love me, Rock me, and find your treasure, never fear.
The old gods keep their gifts to give their own."
From such small demons, what harm might they fear?
-Byatt as Ash"
08/24/2013 page 220
43.0% "Oh my god those letters. Those. Letters. Every time I to finish them I realize I have been barely breathing for hours. Or at least it feels that way. I blink and look around uncomprehending like I've just been asleep for a hundred years. Like I just ran the race of my life. I'm drained and exhilarated. I don't even-

I just so love this book."
10/06/2013 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-47)

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message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

This review kicks ass. You captured how this book felt different on my first and second readings in a somewhat spooky manner. (Although, both my readings were before the movie.) Thanks!

Kelly Thanks for commenting and I'm glad I'm not the only one to admit to a somewhat, ah, limited first read of this book! I kind of wish I had read the book before the year the movie came out, too, so I could be a little less embarrassed about how much my first reading of this had to do with Jeremy Northam. :)

message 45: by Eric_W (new)

Eric_W Nice.

message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

I feel there is no shame in reading because of Jeremy Northam. :)

message 43: by Kelly (last edited Sep 25, 2009 10:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly Bun_Wat says "Well okay, you convinced me."

Yay, Bun! :) I would love to discuss it with you whenever you read it!

I feel there is no shame in reading because of Jeremy Northam. :)

I knew I liked you!

Lori (Hellian) Ah I remember reading this book when it first came out and loving it. This is one of those books that I would love to reread, it was one of the select few that I chose to keep when moving from NY. It's just that there I so many books I haven't read yet! Bun, I'm surprised you haven't read this yet, it's got a neon light flashing "BunWat".

message 41: by Kelly (last edited Sep 25, 2009 12:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly Jeremy Northam. He also makes the G.Paltrow Emma worth watching!

Also Ewan McGregor with funny hair! :)

And, thanks, Elizabeth, I appreciate you saying that. Coming from an A.S. Byatt devotee like you, that really means a lot! And now I can discuss it in book group, yay!

Lori, I think you should read it again. It really is like reading a whole new book when you re-read it! At least it was for me. Think of it as another book you haven't read yet. :)

Jesse I love reading how views change over time. I don't think it has to be an embarrassing experience since it is such an eloquent way of tracking personal and intellectual growth.

I suspect I'll have a similar reaction to you whenever I get around to rereading this, because my first time around sounds very similar to yours (sans the crying part)!

P.S.--I DESPISED the casting of Aaron Eckhart in the film. It changed the character from a sexy geek to a smarmy American jock. Ugh.

Alessandra This book is one of my all-time favorites. Love it, love it, love it. I was just thinking about reading it again.

The only thing that bothers me? The ending! Everything is so tidy...

Kelly Jesse- totally true about Aaron Eckhart. I just got in a conversation about this. I just have trouble believing it to start? Would a Victorian poetry scholar in the 21st century be that aggressively and stereotypically straight male and that simplistic? I would hope not. And agreed, what a waste! My suspension of disbelief can take Gwenyth as English, but not that one.

I also have a bit of an issue with the ending- the issue that a lot of other people have with Atonement- it just feels like a cop out, something done for the audience, not for the integrity of the story. I get that it does kind of fit in with the "you'll never really know who people are and what their lives are like no matter how much dirt you find on them," but I feel like there are some other reveals they could have done that weren't quite so twee.

Don't get me wrong- I was completely touched by it and on my first, emotional read, I loved it. But with any more thought than that it does kind of feel like it disrespects the quality and complexity of (most of) the rest of the story.

message 37: by Hashani (new) - added it

Hashani I was contemplating buying this book, and Kelly you totally bought me over with your review!:-D Cheers!

Kelly I'm so glad! Some people find it too pretentious, but I think the heart of it outweighs that consideration considerably. I do hope you enjoy!

message 35: by L.K. (new) - rated it 5 stars

L.K. Rigel wonderful

Kelly Thanks!

message 33: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich Great review! I keep meaning to read this, books as a puzzle have been my recent favorite type of novel so I feel i should check this out.

message 32: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa I love this review! Funny, informative and I think we can all (at least I can... very much, though haha) relate to your youth experiences with books ;)

Kelly It is good to remember at least that everyone was about the same amount of silly at that age. :)

Kathy Great review. And comforting. I'm a whole different generation and approached the book, therefore, from a different perspective. But what you say resonates with me so well.

Kelly Well thank you! There is a lot that is timeless about this book.

message 28: by Kelly (last edited Apr 25, 2012 03:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly Elizabeth wrote: "Kelly wrote: "Well thank you! There is a lot that is timeless about this book."

Yes, but some that is not. I snicker when I get to the part about intercepting the fax..."

Ha! Well, if a few footnotes can solve any problems we might have in relating to Austen in our times, I'm sure that it can do the same for other readers of the future!

Kelly Elizabeth wrote: "Yes, also explaining why they didn't scan things and responded to paper letters and no one had a cell's like the nineteenth century or something. :-)"

Haha, yes. I think you are totally right though, especially about paper letters. The definitive history of Paper a la Saltcannot be long in coming. I feel like it's already taken on this weight of heaviness and Seriousness as a symbol that is pretty fascinating. All those emails I've gotten at work with the tagline "please consider the environment before printing" this are a pretty indicative, I think.

Kathy Oh, I love letters also, and was just considering what the prevalence of email and FB and such may mean. I have collections of letters, love letters from the turn of the century (the one before this one; gosh, I am so old I have to define centuries) and bits of scribbled poetry from my elders and my adored ones...somehow a quick text message is just not the same.

message 25: by Kathy (last edited Apr 25, 2012 07:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kathy But you save those text messages? And..when your grandchildren are wondering about your great love affairs, will they locate them somehow, in some cyber archive?

In the context of Possession...I'm imagining the scholars of the 22nd century. How do you suppose they will access the messages, the notes, the posts? Will it be possible, do you think?

Kelly A lot of historically significant things in other centuries have been lost because people didn't think to preserve them; ours is no different.

Just like Byatt says! :) It's true. I think maybe with advancing technology it's still going to mean losing things more even if people do try to consciously save them as computers/phones lose the ability to run older programs. In some ways that's and interesting translation of 'not everyone reads Latin anymore and now you need training' to read older things but still. I wonder if we'll get kind of a 'memory industry' growing up to help people with that?

Kathy You know, that's fascinating to consider. I just got back from reading some Sappho on the local small community radio station...and there is an example of fragments, and loss, and finding.

Kelly Well there you go. Plus ca change, right? I need to read Sappho.

Kathy Oh, haven't seen that translation. Mary Barnard is my favorite

Aubrey You are a wonderful, wonderful writer. Sharing your talent with the rest of us 'helps' more than you could ever know.

message 19: by T.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle I love this book, too, and I love the passion with which you embrace it :) I never saw the film, so cannot comment about that, but you've made me want to re-read this one, which is on my own favourites shelf.

message 18: by Kelly (last edited Oct 07, 2013 09:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly Thank you for the kind words, both of you. I appreciate it. I especially appreciate the vote of confidence, Aubrey. As I'm sure you know, it's easy to feel a lack of confidence on some days in one's writing!

You should totally see the film, TD, btw. They leave tons out, but I think they get the tone just right, and Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehele are fabulous. It's also a beautiful movie.

message 17: by T.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle Kelly wrote: "Thank you for the kind words, both of you. I appreciate it. I especially appreciate the vote of confidence, Aubrey. As I'm sure you know, it's easy to feel a lack of confidence on some days in one'..."

I will! I wasn't avoiding it, but (yes, I do live under a rock) I somehow missed entirely that it had been made into a film. I am looking forward to it. Cheers.

Kelly Well, it was a decade ago. I happened to know about it because it falls exactly within the niche of the movies I watch, with a lot of my favorite actors. It wasn't super heavily publicized or anything. I guess we'll forgive you your lapse. This one time only, obviously. :)

Hope you enjoy it!

Keith I see you have added Mark Helprin's In Sunlight and In Shadow. That book has passages of raw transcendent beauty, as do two of his earlier works, Winter's Tale and A Soldier of the Great War. I reread these two frequently seeking, much as you with Possession, those passages that so moved me in previous readings. I consider him one of the great American novelists and his sensibilities without compare.

message 14: by T.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle Kelly wrote: "Well, it was a decade ago. I happened to know about it because it falls exactly within the niche of the movies I watch, with a lot of my favorite actors. It wasn't super heavily publicized or anyth..."

Oh dear, Kelly, there may be others ... but thanks for the grace of forgiveness ;)

message 13: by Kelly (last edited Oct 11, 2013 10:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly No problem- I'm generous like that. Because you totally needed my forgiveness, too. :)

Thanks for the back up recommendation on that one, Keith. I appreciate the response to my request for beautiful prose! I was hoping for more recommendations from people but this is a great one to start with. I've heard great things about Mark Helprin for a long time. I tried Winter's Tale once but I suspect that I was not in the right mindset. I'm excited to try again.

message 12: by Caleb (new) - added it

Caleb Thompson I'll be picking up this book now after your review. I don't want escapism in my books, necessarily. I want, as I believe you said, not something that pulls me from reality, but rather, helps me see it (and myself) clearly again.

Thank you.

Kelly Thanks Caleb, and yes. That's about what I was trying to say. There's a lot in this book that I see a core passions and parts of me, so when feeling outside of that Self that I like and aspire to... Yeah. This brought me back. I was so grateful to it for that.

Ronald Geigle Your personal reflections flow nicely from the book itself, which I just finished. Thanks for telling us about your thoughts on the book and your own journey. They all fit together well. Keep writing

Kelly Thank you for the encouragement. I haven't been making the time lately, but I am going to try to again!

message 8: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala Very readable piece of writing - and this is a book I was glad I bought in hardback when it first came out - it more than bears rereading!

Kelly Thanks- yeah, this is a personal classic for me! I am sure I will re-read it every few years for a long time to come. Or more often, depending on when I need it again.

message 6: by Ian (last edited Oct 24, 2014 08:01PM) (new)

Ian Klappenskoff Amazing review, Kelly. You are saved!

Kelly Thanks, Ian! Though somehow I feel the profane nature of some of my commentary and priorities might make me Rapture disqualified. It's okay though. I can deal with that. :)

Dolors An excellent proof of how reading brings truth in our lives without needing to possess it. Loved witnessing your different selves connecting with Byatt's book and with the image of Roland's new found inspiration and words flowing freely in poems of his own still fresh on my mind, I can understand how a book can change the way in which we understand life. Beautiful review Kelly, and also important. Yup, this is the stuff that really matters.

Steve Sckenda Kelly, I have just finished reading this book, and I envy how you have read this book three times almost as much as I envy the way you have seamlessly weaved some of the great quotations into your review. I love how you demanded that this book deliver something new to you. Indeed, I don't think I can come close to understanding this book on only one reading, but I will continue to leap with you in Byatt again and again.

Kelly Dolors wrote: "An excellent proof of how reading brings truth in our lives without needing to possess it. Loved witnessing your different selves connecting with Byatt's book and with the image of Roland's new fou..."

Thanks, of course I absolutely agree. Possession is one of those touchstone books that never fails me. Other books have lost their power- but I think I am lucky that I discovered it so young in the sense that I had no idea what half of it was really about. I get a little more each time.

I'm so glad you also enjoyed your experience of reading it so much! It seems to be an oddly divisive book.

message 1: by Kelly (last edited Mar 22, 2015 11:38AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly Steve wrote: "Kelly, I have just finished reading this book, and I envy how you have read this book three times almost as much as I envy the way you have seamlessly weaved some of the great quotations into your ..."

Thanks! And I'm glad to hear that you plan to re-read it! It's definitely a gift that keeps on giving. There are a lot of great books that I love but that I'm sure I got everything out of that first time. This is not one of them!

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