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Possession : a romance
A. S. Byatt
Adult Fiction BYATT

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From Publishers' Weekly:

The English author of Still Life fuses an ambitious and wholly satisfying work, a nearly perfect novel. Two contemporary scholars, each immersed in the study of one of two Victorian poets, discover evidence of a previously unimagined relationship between their subjects: R. H. Ash and Christabel LaMotte had secretly conducted an extramarital romance. The scholars, ``possessed'' by their dramatic finds, cannot bring themselves to share their materials with the academic community; instead, they covertly explore clues in the poets' writings in order to reconstruct the affair and its enigmatic aftermath. Byatt persuasively interpolates the lovers' correspondence and ``their'' poems; the journal entries and letters of other interested parties; and modern-day scholarly analysis of the period. One of the poets is posthumously dubbed ``the great ventriloquist''; because of Byatt's success in projecting diverse and distinct voices, it is tempting to apply the label to her as well. Merely to do so, however, would ignore even greater skills: her superb and perpetually surprising plotting; her fluid transposition of literary motifs to an infinite number of keys; her amusing and mercifully indirect criticism of current literary theories; and her subtle questioning of the ways readers and writers shape, and are shaped by, literature. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

This Booker Prize-winning novel is a good candidate for an oral reading, and Virginia Leishman performs beautifully. A wonderful mix of poetry and posturing literary criticism, part mystery, part romance, this tale is an entertaining juxtaposition of the 19th and 20th centuries. Leishman's reading emphasizes this contrast as she elegantly modulates poetry and then clips her words in a businesslike manner when reading the 20th-century analyses of 19th-century poetry. Maud Bailey and Roland Mitchell, scholars of Christabel Lamotte and Randolph Henry Ash, are brought together and to life through the letters, diaries, and poetry of the two poets. Uncertain of their own identities, Bailey and Mitchell can easily lose themselves in the study of literature. We become as involved as the scholars through a judicious sampling of belles lettres and literary criticism, until finally Lamotte and Ash materialize and speak for themselves. The supporting characters are humorous stereotypes that Leishman portrays with various accents and annoying drawls to match their idiosyncrasies. Highly recommended.--Juleigh Muirhead Clark, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Lib., Williamsburg, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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