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A Story Within A Story Within A Story

I’m over halfway through Possession at this point, and I’m dizzy.

As a general rule, I believe a novel should have at least made a small amount of plot progression by page 250.

Possession has the pacing of a curling match. To this point—and I emphasize “to this point”—it’s just dry. I’m struggling to read this book.

First, you’ve got the two stiff 1980s academics and their possible interest in each other. Then, you have their research—which involves the study of two Victorian poets who wrote an overwhelming slew of letters to one another, as well as to other people in their life, many of which you’ll have to read. Then, you have poems and fictional stories and fairy tales written by these Victorian poets, which are also included within the text of Possession.

It’s just a lot of layers. And I’m gathering that Possession takes a lot of patience to read—and to appreciate.

At this point—again emphasizing “at this point”—I don’t have the needed patience. But I’m hoping that I’ll begin to enjoy the story as I move further along into it.

I do everything I can to appreciate and enjoy these books from the Time list—because who wants to continue on through a book they dislike?—so I hope Possession picks up.

Any pointers to make this novel more enjoyable? Or does the suckage continue?

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24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Teresa #

    I had the same experience with it. It did pick up for me once they got more formally into the mystery of it all and I went back and retread sections for “clues I had missed in my yawning state. Hope it clicks for you.

    Like

    March 25, 2014
    • It’s starting to pick up a little. I’m over halfway through.

      Like

      March 26, 2014
  2. Sam #

    It’s been about 7 years since I read it, but I had the same feelings. I think I mentally gave up about where you are and had trouble getting through because my motivation wasn’t there. Don’t give up! Good luck!

    Like

    March 25, 2014
  3. I kind of enjoyed all those poems and letters. AS Byatt is a very learned woman and her book shows this. I hope you get around to enjoying it. Let us know. What a good idea to have a list of books to go through. At the end of it you’ll probably be very proud of the achievement. Hang in there.

    Like

    March 25, 2014
  4. I have not read it, so I can only contribute a current ironic observation: the advertisement at the bottom of this post was for Quilted Northern TP. I’m not sure there is any significance to this fact. I do hope the book picks up for you. I have Byatt’s “Elementals” on my shelf and have not been able to read it, so far.

    Like

    March 25, 2014
    • Ha! I don’t know if I’d go that far. I think that ad might be more appropriate for A Dance to the Music of Time.

      Like

      March 26, 2014
  5. Ted Fontenot #

    Fowles’s real Victorian novel is Daniel Martin, and it’s absorbing in its rather deliberate way–it doesn’t set a frenetic thriller-like pace that The Collector and The Magus. It’s an exercise in character development and the precise delineation of the process of falling in love. DM is criminally underrated.

    Besides, unlike Possession, The French Lieutenant’s Woman is an engrossing story as a mere story..

    If you’re going to do something like what Byatt is doing in Possession, it seems to me you need to have more of a sense of dramatic narrative. And if you’re going to do that in a Post-Modern Metafiction manner, you need to be more something like John Barth in Giles Goat-Boy. Show some wild imagination, engage in outrageous absurdities, including parody (the “Taliped Decanus” retelling of Oedipus Rex to Beat poetry verse), extreme burlesque of philosophical schemes and systems–and action, lots of it that keeps the narrative moving. A babe raised as goat? How about one that becomes enamored of one budding doe, only to have the “horns” bestowed upon him by a competitor buck?

    Like

    March 25, 2014
  6. Jetagain #

    I read “Possession” in the early nineties and while I remember liking (but NOT loving) it, I don’t remember much about it. Neither do I remember much about the movie although I do remember thinking the film didn’t do the book justice.

    Like

    March 25, 2014
  7. Reblogged this on dust0666.

    Like

    March 25, 2014
  8. Don’t think this one is for me. I figure, if I want to read the Victorians, I should read the Victorians.

    Like

    March 25, 2014
    • Novel idea, Don. Reading about Victorians writing fairy tales is even worse.

      Like

      March 26, 2014
  9. [nods] The suck age continues, for the most part.

    Like

    March 26, 2014
    • Heh. My phone autocorrected “suckage” for me.

      Like

      March 26, 2014
    • I was thinking you liked this book. Good to hear I’m not alone.

      Like

      March 26, 2014
      • I didn’t *hate* it, but I really couldn’t get into it. The poetry felt like a million interruptions, the diary entries got boring…the only thing I kind of liked about it was the main storyline about Ash and what’s-her-face, but I had to slog through all the other crap just to find out what happened.

        Like

        March 26, 2014
  10. Wouldn’t you rather be reading a book you actually enjoy?
    Reading is for pleasure. If it’s painful – you need to put it down and walk away. Lol 😉

    Like

    March 26, 2014
    • But then what would I have to complain about? Haha.

      Like

      March 26, 2014
  11. I like your work a lot. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

    March 26, 2014
  12. I couldn’t bear this book. I’d rather poke my eyes out. Good luck.

    Like

    March 26, 2014
  13. You might watch the movie version. Then you would be curious to see what came from the book and what didn’t, and what is in the book that never made it to the movie. It might keep you going.

    Like

    March 26, 2014
  14. I loved Possession. Perhaps it would help if you thought of it as detective fiction? That’s what literary analysis is, really — looking for clues to illuminate the whole story, even though the whole story may never come to light.

    Also, I found it fun to keep track of the many words I’d never seen before. Byatt’s vocabulary is huge.

    Like

    March 28, 2014

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