Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Sunday, 29 August 2004

"Possession" by A.S. Byatt (Vintage, 1990)

A literature post-doc, expert on the life and works of Randolph Ash (a Victorian poet), stumbles upon an old letter that hints of an affair Ash may have had. He contacts a female expert on Christabel LaMotte (a Victorian poetess). Together they uncover more evidence of the Victorian liaison, but others are on the trail. At the end all is revealed.

The main Victorian characters are imaginary, but are integrated with historical characters. We are shown their poems, their letters and the literary criticism their work has engendered. We begin to see how the myths and metaphors in the poems were based on real-life events. The modern-day lives and relationships echo those of the Victorians. There's an impressive range of writing. Though the Victorian parts are too long for me, I liked the book. 3 points to note

  • Often at the start of chapters one is unsure of the era - presumably deliberate.
  • The author sometimes shifts the PoV back in time - our knowledge of the past isn't purely document-based.
  • Authorial intrusions are rare, but they happen - not sure why. E.g. - "What they thought will be told later. This is what they read."

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