Thoughts Possession by A.S. Byatt, Vintage Books 1991 (orig 1990) – Movie Tie In (which seems odd that this is 1991 since the movie came out in 2002), 555 pages
I’m warning you that this is a convo for people who have read the book. If you ever think you want to read it and hate spoilers, please do not read on. You’ll hate me and yourself. Probably in that order.
First Sentence: “The book was thick and black and covered with dust.”
OK, let’s start with a bang. Not until Ellen’s grand confession of the most delicate and private truths as to what kind of marriage she had with Poet Ash, did I even question or wonder who knocked up the maid in Chapter _?_. (I couldn’t find it.) Can you say FORESHADOWING that went WAY over my head I didn’t even notice anything went by? So, we have a pregnant girl who disappears soon before the birth and we never know what happens. And Poet Ash did it! He had to. Makes sense to me, anyway. He was both admirable and despiscable.
Ellen was passive-aggressive. Did she or didn’t she want everyone to know? Yes to both. Poor thing. Couldn’t decide… And really POOR THING that she got what she wanted (or didn’t) and never knew what she was missing. AND THEN, her understanding somewhat faithful husband!!! whoa.
Ellen – truly the most tragic figure in the book. And her husband gallivants around the countryside to study biology. It’s rather humorous.
I loved that the child was anti-poetry. HA!
I was tripped up how many great-greats Christabel was to Maud. Didn’t there seem to be an excessive amount? Just looked – there were 3. So if Maud was in her thirties in 1986, she could have been born in, let’s say 1953. If I subtract 22 for her mother’s birth year, we get 1931. Then for her mother, which would be Maud’s GRANDMOTHER, another 22 years back would be 1909. That puts Maud’s FIRST great-grandma born in 1887 and then 2nd great in 1965. SO, they were REALLY young mothers to pop in another layer of generation to get to 1861 for May’s birthday! I know, I’m strange, but the too many great things really took me out of the story…
Not that I didn’t love the twist that Maud was a relation! So cool. Really should have seen it coming with all the white-blonde and pale skin reference to BOTH of them. What a fun circle back that Maud studies her great-to-the-third-or-second-gma’s work unbeknownst.
And the last chapter was lovely. How sad that Ash and Christabel failed to get their last messages of love to their lover.
Rating: Four slices of pie. I would have to say the pie that best goes with this work is a decadent rich dark chocolate torte with real cream garnish and a few raspberries. (I either was careless and failed to note any pie references or there just weren’t any.)
I can’t give you a five star rating on this because I just didn’t fall in love with the poetry. So the rating is for me because on an academic literary impressive scale, this is a five star book and I do think it deserves all the love and awards it has won.
I don’t have the energy to record all the vocabulary but be assured, this has many words I did not know. But honestly, I was not as intimidated by this like I was for her Matisse stories.
And I’m out of steam. Please visit Kim and Lu for more insight…
Finally a BIG thank you to Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness and Lu of Regular Rumination for hosting a readalong/tweetalong #ReadByatt. I appreciate the nudge to finally get this read.
If you loved this book, I highly recommend you read Byatt’s lovely novella collection Angels and Insects. Especially the Angels one.
25 thoughts on “Possession: A Spoileriffic #ReadByatt Post”
Oh. My. God. I did not even consider the possibility that Ash knocked up the maid. But why else would Byatt even mention it? Unless simply to foreshadow that’s what happens to unmarried pregnant women. But I like your interpretation.
It struck me forcefully when I was thinking back about Ellen and her first diary entry. I could be wrong.
Oh man, I totally did not think about the knocked up maid! That is SUCH a good clue about Ash and their marriage and everything. Super smart, Care.
I think Ellen is the most tragic figure too. I didn’t like her that much initially, but I think the journal entries when Ash was dying and how much we learn about how difficult her life must have been then really made me feel for her. That had to be tough.
Thanks for reading along 🙂
Yea? You think I might be on to something?
I really liked Beatrice, too.
Looking forward to the movie-tweet-along. Sunday, the 14th at 8 EST…
I skipped around the spoilery parts because I do plan to read Possession, someday. First, I’ll have to actually find it. Just wanted to see your rating and now you’ve made me all pie-hungry, again.
BTW, got a lovely card from you, today. Thanks!
Yay! Happy April, too.
It’s been years since I read this one (I think it was 2007) but I remember loving the actual plot, related twists and all, but not loving the poetry. I felt like it just made the book so much more convoluted. But I’m also not a big poetry fan, so maybe some people love that element.
It was amazingly constructed and smartly imaginative.
I *LOVED* your review and agree about Ash and the maid. One of my favorite things about this book were the female characters and the feminist themes. I really liked Maud and Ellen. They were different, but similar. I need to work on my review which will likely not be as extensive as yours which is why I will totally link to yours. I miss the readbyatt hashtag; I had so much fun. I hope that we can do another read-a-long together!!
Yes! Sorry we couldn’t get together at IKEA. What other books do you want to read that I also want to read? Melissa – Avid Reader and I are hosting a readalong in October of … I can’t remember. An Italian author.
me to-read list is random and long; I can jump into other read-a-longs you are already thinking about–just let me know. No worries about IKEA. Excited that we can do a movie watching together 😉
Oh, I totally did not get the pregnant maid connection…and I have read the book twice! But it totally makes sense. Great review and thanks for spurring me on to re-read this. I really loved revisiting it. I have Angels and Insects…I will try and get to that this year.
Really? You think it makes sense? I discovered something. Huh.
I so enjoyed Angels – it has some humor to it. 🙂
How about this for a theory. The maid goes off and has her baby and its decendent turns out to be…Roland!
It’s interesting to read your forum here. I’ve this book for ages in one of my TBR boxes, but somehow am not motivated enough to read it. Know there’s a movie, think I’ve seen part of it. The movie adaptations are not usually of the same dates because often filmmakers look to all sorts of publications, old classics or modern ones. But I know one that is very recent, and the film rights snatched up shortly after it’s published, and that’s Before I Go to Sleep (just posted a review). Have you read it? I hope the film will be better than the book. 😉
I was referring to the cover art of the book – if the edition was printed in 1991 with 2002 photos of the actors, then the print edition is likely not right…
I wasn’t impressed with the book BIGtS, either. My review says “I expect the movie will be better.”, too!
I’ve read it and completely thought about the pregnant maid. . . I thought Christabel was pregnant? It’s been a long time. And I skipped all the poetry too. I usually skip song lyrics too — I skipped almost all the song lyrics in the Harry Potter series. Sacrilege!!
That is, FORGOT about the pregnant maid.
So is this book considered neo-Victorian?
I read this book so long ago and so quickly (it was for a class) that it would be like a brand new read.
I think this would be a good book for a reread – if you did such things, which I know you do. 😉
I finally wrote and posted my review; I linked to yours: http://beastmomma.squarespace.com/from-shelf-to-hand/2013/4/9/possession.html
Skipping over everything (because I don’t want to end up hating you and myself) just to say I’m so bummed that I couldn’t work this into my reading! Looks like people had a lot to say about this one,
I liked the movie but don’t think I’d have the patience for the book.