Friday, 25 May 2018

A. S. Byatt's Possession

I’m getting back to reading literature, with A. S. Byatt’s Possession: A Romance
It has subjects that interest me—Victorian literature, mystery, love, loss, adultery (as a subject in literature only, I must note), a dig at academia and the various isms in literary criticism. The author’s knowledge of Victorian literature and society, and Western mythologies, is immense and impressive; her large vocabulary and intellectuality make me think of George Eliot; the passages in 19th century prose sound genuine; and the book as a whole is vast and covers different genres, different styles of writing. But it is dry, so dry. The prose lacks something, I know not what—humour? irony? poetry? music? rhythm? a sense of exhilaration and love of life? I don’t like her prose, her voice; the imagery doesn’t always work; some sentences now and then sound odd to my ears. Maybe it’s the feeling that I feel a love of literature, but not a love of life, or of people. A. S. Byatt makes me think of George Eliot because of the intellectuality and the dryness, but she doesn’t moralise, which is good; and doesn’t write much about the characters’ personality and inner thoughts, which may not be bad in itself, considering the subject matter, but which appears to me as a shortcoming and partly gives the impression that the author’s more interested in literature and ideas than in people. Or maybe it’s just me. 
May change my mind later. That happens. 
I’m on chapter 10, reading the correspondence between Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. The book is still intriguing. 


  1. i read this some time ago and liked it... it was indeed a bit dry, but Ms. B's control of vocabulary and imagery was extraordinary, i thought... but i agree, the plot did weave about somewhat...

    1. I'm still reading it. It got more interesting with the Whitby trip, probably because I've been to Whitby.

  2. I think you hit a nail on the head there. Started this, wanted to slap the reader about the face with a large, wet fish (with spikes) and gave up. And it's the same irritation I had with Eliot (though I'm 61% through Muddlemuch and persevering). Whenever I saw Toni on the telly, with that tight-mouthed, superior, priggish manner, I got an even stronger desire to smack her, so maybe the two women were similar through and through.

    1. Why fish?
      I think Middlemarch is a great novel. Not the greatest novel in the English language, no, definitely not, I would vote for Moby Dick, and then perhaps Lolita.
      But greatest British novel? I can't say. It could be. I haven't read Bleak House. Or many British novels, I think.
      I had a hard time with it though. Lots of struggle.
      Will think more about the 2 women.