Possession: You Hate It Or You Love It
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.
The 5 stars
This is a beautiful love story, achieving a level of romantic passion, emotion, and anguish like that of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but with the Byronic or Gothic touches of the Bronte sisters. It is clear, to me, why Byatt was awarded the Booker Prize forPossession in 1990; and that this novel is clearly destined to be a classic work of literature.
Reading this marvelous piece had been an amazing journey. My imagination had been triggered to expand more than ever—more than I expected. Shifting back and forth between two eras that are told alternately, I was slowly traversing in an amazing conundrum through various forms of writing; letters, diaries, poems, and even fairy tales. Byatt shows how imagination and creativity can possibly be manifested in various modes and are not strictly bound by a clear definition or a specific genre. I admit that this had not been an easy one to delve into, but it had been a worth journey indeed. I mean, who else writes like this?
For me, Possession is like a bottle of wine or a box of really good chocolate (the really, expensive and sinfully good kind). There is an aboluste beauty in this book, and it seems to lie in the details. How all the characters still in character, the resolution to both romances at the end, all the touches about criticism – all these ring true.
And then there are the one-star reviews.
A honking great piece of literary self gratification, a novel about writers (all novels about writers should be given a concrete overcoat), a grand excuse for A S Byatt to dazzle us with some fancy ventriloquism, and yes you can feel the throb of the author’s perfervid intelligence like a lawnmower hacking away at the tough grass at the edge of the lawn but after all of that you have to come clean and say that Possession isn’t worth the thinnest novelette written by Raymond Chandler or the most offhand poem by e e cummings or the most obscure B side by the Beach Boys either. A pure waste of time which I was suckered into by someone whose taste I had thought trustworthy, so that was a lesson bitterly learned.
This book breaks one of PB’s commandments :
– Thou shalt not write a book which is a series of SOCK PUPPETS designed entirely to impress the hoi polloi at the Hay-on-Wye Literary festival when you read bits out to them in FUNNY VOICES.
I think this book would be excellent if you’ve never read another book that had the theme of parallel lives & loves. And if you’ve never read anything by Anais Nin and Henry Miller. The writing style came across as forced and over-done. I thought if I saw “Randolph Henry Ash” one more time I’d chuck the book out the train window.
After enduring the torture that is this book my guess is Ms. Byatt was unable to find a job after grad school and thus wants to inflict more people with her misery
After suffering through the entirety of another impenetrable Byatt fog (Angels & Insects), I’d guessed myself prepared for the onslaught. But no. There was zero chance of harmonious discourse between my inferior brain & the superior waffle ofPossession. It’s the simple result of a simple equation, you see? I failed to appreciate that A.S. Byatt is smart, therefore I failed to appreciate why I should give a rat’s ass about these fictional academic blowhards & their bloated, self-indulgent dialogues.
…But perhaps the failure isn’t all my fault. A.S. Byatt is smart, remember.
So there you go. You know I’m going to lean toward the one-stars on this one. Aren’t one-star reviews always more creative anyway?
I don’t know exactly what I’d call Possession yet, and I have no idea exactly what A.S. Byatt is trying to prove in the novel. But whatever it is she’s doing, she’s using a hammer to do it. This novel will wear you down, friends.
When will I end this painful stage of 101 Books, post my review, and get on with my life? I don’t know. Hopefully, my review will be coming next week.