Possession: A Romance

A. S. Bayatt, Author, A. S. Byatt, Author Random House Inc $22.95 (555p) ISBN 978-0-394-58623-6
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.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
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