So Valentine’s Day is on Saturday.
Naturally, I’m overly eager to talk all about romance novels. You know me: I love a good romance novel.
In order to beef up my extensive TBR list of romance novels, I’m using today’s Monday Question (on Tuesday) to ask you guys a simple query: What’s your favorite love story? Read more
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.
The title of today’s post sounds a little like you guys should be expect an exorcism on the blog soon. But let’s hope things don’t get that dramatic.
Possession is a “romance” novel between two Victorian poets! How fabulous!
That’s what I get with A.S. Byatt’s Possession, my next novel from the list. But, really, there’s much more to it than that.
The novel was written as a response to John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, a novel I reviewed back in August 2011.
So here are a few facts about Possession and its author, A.S. Byatt:
It’s rerun week at 101 Books! Today’s post originally appeared on August 1, 2011. 101 Books will return live on Monday July 9.
Here’s the situation: You’ve got a book with a questionable cover—nothing dirty. You’re just a little self-conscious about this book’s cover when you carry it in public.
Maybe you’re a guy who likes Danielle Steel novels. Or maybe you’re a girl who enjoys the occasional foray into Fabio-inspired grocery store romance novels. Hey, whatever floats your boat, right?
But if you want to take the book out on your lunch break, you might be a little leery of letting fellow diners know about your Fabio obsession.
If you’ll remember from earlier this year, I encountered this whole carrying an “embarrassing”-book-in-public issue while reading a Judy Blume book. Now, I’m facing it to a slighter degree with The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
So, using The French Lieutenant’s Woman as an example, I’ve come up with a few book carrying techniques that may or may not help you work around this problem.
The Confident Carry
With this approach, you are taking on the world. You’re saying, “I know you see the barechested woman with flowing hair on this cover, and I don’t care.” If you’re bold enough and confident enough in your reading selections to use this technique, then pat yourself on the back. You’ll go far in life.
I really wanted to dislike this novel.
The title. The cover. My mistaken thought that it was an oozing, touchy-feely-beat-me-over-the-head-so-I-don’t-have-to-read-this love story. All of this factored into my preconceived notions about The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
Forgive me. I was wrong.
Does The French Lieutenant’s Woman have romantic elements? Yes. It is a love story? Partially, in a twisted kind of way. But to paint this novel with a broad brush like that is doing John Fowles a disservice.
How much did I enjoy this novel? Well, let me tell you all about it.
In the almost full year that I’ve been writing this blog and reading these books, I’ve read some incredibly insightful stuff.
But this passage from John Fowles in The French Lieutenant’s Woman may take the proverbial cake. Fowles, the narrator, is talking about two servants who are in love and from cultures that couldn’t be more different: