Possession by A.S. Byatt

77%

24 Critic Reviews

In short, the whole book is a gigantic tease – which is certainly satisfying on an intellectual level. But still, that doesn't account for its singular appeal. Possession's true centre is a big, red, beating heart.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Hailed by The New York Times Book Review as "a gifted observer, able to discern the exact details that bring whole worlds into being" and "a storyteller who could keep a sultan on the edge of his throne for a thousand and one nights," A. S. Byatt writes some of the most engaging and skillful novels of our time. Time magazine calls her "a novelist of dazzling inventiveness."
        
Possession, for which Byatt won England's prestigious Booker Prize, was praised by critics on both sides of the Atlantic when it was first published in 1990. "On academic rivalry and obsession, Byatt is delicious. On the nature of possession—the lover by the beloved, the biographer by his subject—she is profound," said The Sunday Times (London). The New Yorker dubbed it "more fun to read than The Name of the Rose . . . Its prankish verve [and] monstrous richness of detail [make for] a one-woman variety show of literary styles and types." The novel traces a pair of young academics—Roland Michell and Maud Bailey—as they uncover a clandestine love affair between two long-dead Victorian poets. Interwoven in a mesmerizing pastiche are love letters and fairytales, extracts from biographies and scholarly accounts, creating a sensuous and utterly delightful novel of ideas and passions.
        
With an Introduction by the author that describes the novel's origins and its twenty-year gestation, this Modern Library edition is a handsome keepsake for fans of Possession—new and old alike.
 

About A.S. Byatt

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A. S. BYATT is the author of numerous novels, including The Children’s Book, The Biographer’s Tale, and Possession, which was awarded the Booker Prize. She has also written two novellas, published together as Angels & Insects, five collections of short stories, and several works of nonfiction. A distinguished critic and author, and the recipient of the 2016 Erasmus Prize for her “inspiring contribution to ‘life writing,’” she lives in London.

Author Residence: London, UK
 
Published April 18, 2012 by Vintage. 578 pages
Genres: Romance, Literature & Fiction, History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Possession
All: 24 | Positive: 19 | Negative: 5

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Sam Jordison on Jun 19 2009

In short, the whole book is a gigantic tease – which is certainly satisfying on an intellectual level. But still, that doesn't account for its singular appeal. Possession's true centre is a big, red, beating heart.

Read Full Review of Possession | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Sam Jordison on Jun 19 2009

Occasionally such excesses can be frustrating. They seem to get in the way of the story. But even this obstruction, after a while, takes on a purpose.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Sep 29 2008

To pull all these together so flawlessly is a tremendous achievement for A.S. Byatt. Her success is virtuosic, yet it is never showy. A marked seriousness, an unsullied respect for literary decorum, permeates this novel from start to finish.

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Examiner

Above average
Reviewed by Peter Kelton on Jan 27 2012

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 — what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by L.S. Klepp on Nov 30 1990

Byatt’s inventions are flawless to a fault — her Victorians are verbose, and finally too much of an authentic thing. But they are vivid, and their passionate curiosity and curious passions are set off against the smug, theory-infested exertions of modern academic literary critics.

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Christian Science Monitor

Good
Reviewed by Thomas D'Evelyn on Aug 23 2009

Shrewd, even cutting in its satire about how literary values become as obsessive as romantic love, in the end, "Possession'' celebrates the variety of ways the books we possess come to possess us as readers...Brilliantly put together, warm, witty and wise, "Possession'' deserves its laurels...

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The Bookbag

Good
Reviewed by Paul Curd on Aug 01 2009

Byatt has expertly recreated Victorian-style poetry, stories and letters as part of the authentic feel of the novel they provide both 'clues' in the detective work carried out by the modern characters and as counterpoints to their developing relationship. There is some stinging satire on modern academia along the way...

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http://skrishnasbooks.com

Good
Reviewed by Swapna Krishna on May 02 2010

I could go on and on about the beauty and wonder of this amazing novel, but I’ll stop myself here. Though I still love the movie version of Possession, I realize that it couldn’t even scratch the surface of Byatt’s incredible book.

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Brothers Judd

Excellent
on May 22 2000

Byatt was quite consciously trying to write a novel that would be fun; it should be read for enjoyment, not for talmudic effect. At any rate, it's one of my favorite novels, and if you approach it like an arty version of the Maltese Falcon (see Orrin's review), you'll love it too.

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The Blue Bookcase

Below average
Reviewed by Lucia on Jun 06 2011

In Between. This is a massive, yet magnificent novel, however I don't think it's one I would re read.

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Rebecca Reads

Good
Reviewed by Rebecca Reid on Dec 30 2008

...I was overcome by the power in it. I’d suggest reading it when you can think clearly (the Victorian prose can be a bit dense while in the middle of a flu-induced stupor) and prepare to be overwhelmed by Byatt’s words. It is powerful.

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Chrisbookarama

Below average
on Feb 03 2014

So, if you love long poems and academic blah-blah-blah, you'll LOVE Possession. If you don't, well, you'll just feel smarter for reading it. It won the Booker Prize, you know.

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Medieval Bookworm

Good
Reviewed by Meghan on Jul 30 2009

If you love literature, history, biography, poetry, any of these things, this is not a book to be missed. There is a reason it won the Booker prize and I’m thrilled I finally found another winner that matches my adoration of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.

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Iris on Books

Above average
on Apr 03 2013

So yes, Byatt’s prose, not exactly easy. Even though it is absolutely beautiful...Possession deserved much better than this post by me. Every single one of all of the brief glimpses of thought, or even just brief mentions of themes, noted here, probably deserve a dedicated blog post.

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Blogging for a Good Book

Good
Reviewed by Barry on Feb 07 2013

Possession will appeal to a wide range of readers. Anyone who loves clear, thoughtful prose will delight in Byatt’s style.

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Musings of a Literary Dilettante's Blog

Good
Reviewed by musingsofaliterarydilettante on Dec 02 2011

Unfortunately for our Victorian lovers, their tryst is not so harmless – as all those dark portents suggest. The way things resolve is lovely in the way it includes some very Victorian-authentic coincidences! Great fun.

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The Independent Review

Above average
Reviewed by kelseyrolfe on Oct 21 2012

I’d definitely suggest reading Possession, if you can find the time. It’s a great story, but requires a huge time commitment.

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http://www.sheilaomalley.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Sheila on May 22 2007

It’s one of those miraculous books that seems to grow with you, the devoted reader. I continue to be amazed by the breadth and depth of AS Byatt’s skill.

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Beattie's Book Blog

Good
Reviewed by Sara Richards on Dec 23 2013

Possession is the rich, long and complex book I turn to when a good laugh and a good cry are just what I need to remind me of what it is to be human; to love and lose, but also to love and find love.

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The New Canon

Excellent
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Dec 22 2014

To pull all these together so flawlessly is a tremendous achievement for A.S. Byatt. Her success is virtuosic, yet it is never showy. A marked seriousness, an unsullied respect for literary decorum, permeates this novel from start to finish.

Read Full Review of Possession

RatRaceRefuge

Good
on Dec 06 2015

Possession is a highly recommended novel for anyone who is willing to invest a little intellectual effort. It started off a bit slow but once this unconventional detective story picked up momentum, there was some terrific suspense, exciting discoveries, and deep emotions.

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Layers of Thought

Good
Reviewed by Shellie on Apr 13 2011

Not a fluffy romance, it is a complex, realistic yet sad romance – where real life choices and their consequences are exemplified and I liked that it does not end with everyone living happily ever after.

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The Literary Gothamite

Above average
on Nov 04 2010

...I cannot be truly objective on this point--there is too much emotionally at stake for me to really be objective. I'll leave it to the professionals. My so-called review is "Fire bad. Tree pretty. Go read book."

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British Aisles

Below average
on Feb 11 2012

Would I recommend it? Not so much. Intellectuals and academics would like it perhaps more than I did. But for me it seemed more style than substance, more that it was meant to be impressive than it actually made an impression on me.

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Reader Rating for Possession
75%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 400 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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