Possession *UPDATED

by: A.S. Byatt

Published: 1990

# of pages: 555

Sooooo slow. I know I’m probably going to have a lot of people disagree with me on this, but this book was not good. I almost put it down several times. The only reason I didn’t was because I thought it would get better and by the time I realized it wasn’t better I had invested too much time and didn’t want to waste it. The whole book could have been at least 150 pages shorter. I enjoyed the overall plot and would love to see it rewritten in a more readable manner.

I understand that Byatt did an amazing job with her research and creativity. The novel is very well written. I can’t criticize her writing style and although it was wordy, I could keep up. I understood the literary and psychology references, so it wasn’t like I was completely lost. However, I still think the book is too well written…it’s superficial. As if Byatt was showing off her intelligence by including unnecessary references, words, and ideas. I don’t understand who could truly enjoy the long letters and poems that are ingrained throughout the story, but maybe someone who is more learned and distinguished would. I appreciate these elements in novels, but I prefer them to be natural and a little more subtle.

The letters by the fictional Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash, were the worst. He is so boring and pompous sounding! Plus — I couldn’t stand — the “–” every other — word! I skipped most of his letters. His love interest, the poet Christabel, was better. I enjoyed her letters more because they seemed like real letters that someone would write and someone else would enjoy reading. Her poetry was also better, but towards the end I skipped hers too so that I could make my way to the end a little quicker. The letters I did read (all of the ones in the first half of the book and a few in the second) were pointless. They did nothing to further the plot and even less to further the sense of romance between the poets.

I enjoyed the mystery between Ash and Christabel. I could understand why Roland and Maud wanted to find out about their lives so badly. I liked the contemporary romance that was portrayed and only wish that the book had spent a little less time on made up poems (sorry Byatt, if I’m going to read poetry, I’d rather read the authentic Victorian stuff) and more on their conversations and interactions. I also liked reading Sabine’s and Ellen’s journals. They were realistic and interesting. They had intelligent thoughts, but didn’t sound stuck up and full of it.

A fellow book blogger pointed out the fairy tales that are told in the book! I completely forgot about this aspect of the book in my original review. I have to admit to enjoying the fairy tales that are in the book. Christabel is especially interested in fairy tales and her poetry reflects this. Fairy tales are randomly placed throughout the book (I only wish there were more!) and Christabel tells or discusses fairy tales. In one section Sabine retells one in her journal. They weren’t tales I was familiar with which I’m very glad about. I love hearing new fairy tales. Was this book worth reading just to hear these tales? I still don’t know.

I’ve also changed my conclusion to be a little less harsh. I find it hard to believe that so many people LOVE this book, but I suppose that most people take the time to review and rate books that they enjoy while the people who put a book down after reading half may not take the time to go and do that. So I didn’t mean to be offensive, but I still stand by my comments that surely I’m not alone in disliking the book overall. And I still wonder if some people pretend to like it just because it’s intellectual. So, I recommend this book if you have a lot of time on your hands and can get through/enjoy all of the academic references and poetry!


3 thoughts on “Possession *UPDATED

  1. Your review made me cry a little 😦 Just kidding, to each their own 😛This is one of my favourite books ever, and I promise it has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to sound intellectual. As a completely unapologetic fairy tales/fantasy/comics/children’s lit geek, that’s the least of my concerns 😛 I loved the love stories, both the one between the poets and the contemporary one. I loved all the fairy tales references. I absolutely adored the ending. I even liked the poetry and all the academic bits. This is only my opinion, of course, but I liked them because the book didn’t seem to take itself too seriously. I do respect your opinion, of course. Even though A.S. Byatt is one of my favourite authors, I can see why she’s not for everyone.


  2. I forgot about the fairy tale references! Thanks for reminding me because I'm going to go back and put something about that in my review. I thoroughly enjoyed those parts, I wish there had been even more! In that way the book kind of reminded me of Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell.I can't imagine liking the poetry or letters. But like you said, to each their own 😉


  3. I’m sure there are some people who feel socially pressured to say they like complex/difficult/outright boring books because they don’t want others to think less of them or something like that. But there are also those of us who genuinely like this weird stuff 😛Because you liked the fairy tales, I’m going to ask you to give either The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye or Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice a try before you give up on Byatt completely. They’re both books of fairy tales in the style of the ones in Possession. Some of the ones in Possession are even included in the first book.


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