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: Read more
Last week I told you guys I was out of things to say about Possession and/or A.S. Byatt. I’m saving the tiny bit I have left for my review. I really hate this book.
So I thought I’d let the sometimes-friendly reviewers at Good Reads tell you a little more about it.
The book has more than 42,000 ratings and 2,600 reviews, with an average rating of 3.85 out of 5.
As I highlight some of the reviews below, I’ll be fair. I’ll include 3 one-star and 3 five-star reviews of Possession.
Who cares what I think? Let the reviews speak for themselves. Read more
All of us love a good book recommendation.
Except for me. You can give me book recommendations, but I can’t really act on them right now because of some stupid book list I’m reading through.
But you’re not confined to a list. You are a free reader, are you not? So this post is all about you.
Tell me and everyone else what’s your favorite book you’ve read in the last year. Read more
I can’t read your book.
At some point during the last year, I started getting a lot of book review requests.
I’m honored that people want me to read their novel and use my small platform to tell others about it. But here’s the thing: I don’t have the time.
And here’s the other thing: I don’t just review random books. I review books from a specific list that’s already been created. Your book ain’t on that list, I bet.
I’ve been asked to review memoirs, non-fictional biographies, and vampire-werewolf fiction. Not just once or twice, but dozens and dozens of times. I kid you not.
My first instinct is to respond by saying “HAVE YOU READ THE HEADER AT THE TOP OF MY BLOG? AND HAVE YOU SPENT MORE THAN 10 SECONDS AT MY BLOG?”
Today’s kind of a lazy post, but it’s relevant.
Many critics, and even A.S. Byatt herself, have acknowledged Possession is a response to John Fowles’ 1969 novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
So before we jump into Possession, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the story that provoked A.S. Byatt to write her novel in the first place.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman currently sits at #27 in my rankings of the first 68 books I’ve read from the Time list. Before I read the novel, I thought I wouldn’t like it—thinking of it as a Victorian romance. And it is partly that, but to dismiss it that easily does a great disservice to John Fowles. The man was excellent at his craft.
So instead of me babbling on and on about a book I read nearly three years ago, I thought I’d just repost that review here today. It’s been awhile, so just reading this review again reminded me of why I enjoyed The French Lieutenant’s Woman so much.
And, hopefully, Possession will prove to be as interesting.
Here is my one word, highly academic, response to Their Eyes Were Watching God:
Five years from now, if you ask me about some of the books I’ve read from the Time list, I’m sure there will be many that I’ve forgotten about. That’s what the blog is for—to help me remember.
But this is one of those novels that I won’t forget. Everything about Their Eyes Were Watching God is memorable—the story, the characters, the settings, the writing—oh, the writing.
Zora Neale Hurston’s writing is so ridiculously good, and the story itself is so strong, I wonder how this woman hasn’t been given more praise than she has. How did she not get “rediscovered” until the 1970s? What’s wrong with us?
Money is one of the wildest novels I’ve ever read. Pardon the literary cliché, but it’s a roller coaster ride from start to finish.
The novel is such a romp that I don’t even know where to start reviewing it.
Let’s just say that Money is told from the point of view of the classic unreliable narrator. John Self is a raging alcoholic. In fact, it wouldn’t be out of line to say that he is drunk through probably 90% of the novel.
He battles other addictions, like sex and cigarettes. At one point, Self even says, “Unless I specifically inform you otherwise, assume I am always smoking another cigarette.”
The man is a narcissistic basket case. He’s a jerk, a man of terrible morals, but Martin Amis almost, almost, almost makes you like him because of his sense of humor and self-awareness.
I’m tired of reading books about depressed, alcoholic, hopeless twenty-somethings.
I’m just tired of it, man.
I get it. I really do. Your 20s is probably the most volatile, unpredictable decade of your life. It’s a time period that’s easy to write about because it connects with so many people.
We’ve all been there trying to figure out what to do with our lives, trying to figure out what that girl we like is thinking, trying to figure out if we really hate our job enough to quit and pursue something new. For some people, trying not to be drunk all the time.
So I understand why authors like Nathanael West feel led to write about this time period. And I understand why Hemingway wrote about it in The Sun Also Rises or Malcolm Lowry in Under The Volcano or Jack Kerouac in On The Road. But when you put all these books on a list and read them relatively close to each other, the reading gets cumbersome.
Call It Sleep is a tale of two novels.
The first 75% of the novel is fabulous. It’s emotionally draining and depressing–but fabulous nonetheless.
Henry Roth tells the story of an immigrant Jewish family who moves to New York in the early 20th century. The family, which consists of eight-year-old David, his overly protective mother, and his verbally and physically abusive father, lives in some Jewish slums.
But back to the percentages.
The novel really drew me in until the last 100 pages, then I felt like it got cumbersome. David and his friends speak in Yiddish, which is almost as difficult to follow as nadsat from A Clockwork Orange. And there’s a lot of Yiddish late in the novel. Once I got to the last 50 pages, I was just ready for the story to end. And that was disappointing because I really enjoyed the book to that point.
So what makes Call It Sleep such an emotional novel?
You’ve gone and done it, Philip K. Dick.
You’ve gone and made me write a review in which I can’t ramble about how much I dislike science fiction.
But Ubik? Not that bad.
I enjoyed Ubik because of two reasons.