Monday, October 8, 2007

Book Review: Possession by A. S. Byatt


I am going to pull a little copycat here, and do a book review of the latest one I've read. Possession is fantastic--especially if you are into literary fiction. It is poetic--literally--she mimics the British romantic poetry (Romantic being a literary period like modern or Victorian, not indicative of subject matter) of Browning, Barrett and Wordsworth as she creates fictive literary greats of the eighteenth century. It slips in and out of modern life and eighteenth century life seamlessly. Her characters are believable, and her prose is absolutely gorgeous. I am excited to read more of her work, because I feel like I just stumbled upon something really great! For the light reader: She does get into literary theory--psychoanalysis, the French feminists like Cixous, as well as a little queer theory (that isn't a pejorative phrase, that's really what the scholarly field is called) because that is what her characters are dealing with. She makes them very believable scholars, so if that turns you off you probably wouldn't appreciate the book. It isn't too heavy with theory, but it is an element. Something I was fascinated with while reading this novel was all the reference to Norse mythology in the poetry of her characters. I'm not a mythology buff so I borrowed an Oxford edition from an old roommate and learning a little bit more. The mark of a good book for me is not merely that it grips me--which this one did--but that it actually inspires me--which this one did as well. I feel like a better writer, scholar and critical thinker for having read this work.
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