Books Magazine

Book #69: Possession

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

Let me tell you about Possession.

In fact, I’ll give you a quick outline of the novel in case you were considering reading it. No real spoilers, but here’s the breakdown:

  • Modern male academic researches male Victorian poet.
  • Modern female academic researches female Victorian poet.
  • Modern male academic discovers possible top-secret love connection between male Victorian poet and female Victorian poet.
  • 15 pages of letters from male Victorian poet to female Victorian poet.
  • 15 pages of letters from female Victorian poet to male Victorian poet.
  • Modern male academic and modern female academic meet.
  • 10 page Fairy Tale by female victorian poet.
  • Modern Male Academic and modern female academic go on trip together to discover more about male victorian poet and female victorian poet.
  • 10 page poem by male victorian poet.
  • 5 pages of letters from male victorian poet to his wife.
  • Modern male academic and modern female academic lie in bed together.
  • 10 page poem by male victorian poet.
  • 30 pages of journal writing from female victorian poet’s female cousin.
  • Modern male academic and modern female academic realize that their bosses are going to be pissed that they’ve been gone so long.
  • The academic bosses of modern male academic and modern female academic search for modern male academic and modern female academic, while realizing they are on to something of literary historical significance.
  • 10 pages of letters from male Victorian poet to female victorian poet.
  • 20 pages of letters from male victorian poet’s wife to male victorian poet.
  • THE END.

The novel is part-romance, part-literary thriller. Think along the lines of National Treasure with victorian poets and stuffy academics in a game of The Amazing Race that ends at a graveyard.

Doesn’t sound all that bad, huh? Maybe not, but Possession nearly killed this blog.

It sucked my creative bones dry. The execution was just so heavy-handed and dull.

I felt like dying at times while reading this novel. A.S. Byatt was like one of Harry Potter’s dementors circling above me, ready to ravage my soul.

I exaggerate, obviously. But I can’t tell you how happy I am to be finished with Possession. That’s why this review is pretty much a steaming pile of poo. I can’t exert any more energy on this novel. I feel like I just took three Benadryl and sat in the middle of a corn field in 100 degree heat. I’m taxed.

But here are a few points.

 Other Stuff

The Opening Line: “The book was thick and black and covered with dust.”

The Meaning: It’s possession. These poets are “possessed” by love, making them do crazy stuff. And there’s séances in the book, too. See, it’s a theme, this whole possession thing.

Highlights: When A.S. Byatt actually tries to move a story forward, she’s not bad it. That doesn’t happen often though.

Lowlights: Horribly slow-pacing. Long-winded. Many tangents unnecessary to main story. Feels like a bit of an ego-stroke for A.S. Byatt. Heavy-handed execution and dull.

Memorable Line: The last one: “And on the way home, she met her brothers, and there was a rough-and-tumble, and the lovely crown was broken, and she forgot the message, which was never delivered.”

Final Thoughts: I’m being overly harsh on this novel. I realize that. If you like this novel, I’m sorry. You should know that it inspired an upcoming post about the difference between a “bad novel” and “a novel I hate.” This would fall into that latter category. I’m not dense enough to believe Posssession doesn’t have literary merit. That’s obvious. It’s just diametrically the opposite of everything I personally enjoy about reading literature.

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