Possession (Byatt)

Possession: A Romance
A.S. Byatt, 1990
Knopf Doubleday
576 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780679735908

Winner, 1991 Booker Prize

Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and a triumphant love story. As a pair of young scholars research the lives of two Victorian poets, they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist seances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany. What emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passion and ideas. (From the publisher.)

Roland Michell and Maud Bailey, two rather unfulfilled young literary scholars, unexpectedly become figures of romance as they discover a surprising link between the two poets on whom they are authorities.

Byatt deftly plays with literary genres—Romantic quest, campus satire, detective story, myth, fairy tale—as Maud and Roland become deeply involved in the unfolding story of a secret relationship between the Victorian poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte.

The young people's quest inevitably attracts the jealous attention of the competitive academic world, and all too soon the quest becomes a chase. Byatt's staggering technical ambition and her powerful romantic vision are tributes to the great Victorian age, which the novel brings to life. (From the publisher.)

The 2002 film stars Gwyenth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle. (Turgid, a good description.)

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