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Re: It's a sign of it being a good book that you can like it for such different reasons from mine. Camilla Send a noteboard - 25/07/2010 09:09:50 AM
What I liked about the book was essentially the whole of the Victorian timeline, particularly the letters and Christabel LaMotte's character in general. My interest in poetry is, one might say, rather superficial - my preference is generally for poems that have spectacular or remarkable things or lines in them, but I don't bother to go too far in analyzing what exactly is meant by said things. This might explain why I love the obscure Flecker but can't get too enthusiastic about the far better-known and higher-rated Keats. Er, to get back to the point, this also means I didn't appreciate the poems all that much, with a number of exceptions, but then that's not unusual for me. The plot in the contemporary storyline, and most of the characters there, are indeed somewhat on the superficial side, and the weaker side of the novel. The main point of the book for you, though, that theme of "Possession" of an author by the academics studying him or her, or just the act of studying an author in such detail, that was obviously not as relevant for me as I've never really done that.


The Victorian storyline was most definitely much more interesting than the modern day one, certainly as far as characters went. I liked how my interest in finding out what happened to the authors was echoed in the modern characters, but they were simply there as token figures, I felt. The older characters approached being real people (perhaps because the epistolary form did not make claims to be able to describe the whole of the person and the sketchiness therefore seemed fuller than it would when delivered by an omniscient narrator. I don't know.

I've read a fair amount of books by Byatt by now: Possession (but not The Children's Book), Still Life, Babel Tower, A Whistling Woman (three books in a series of four, but I'm reading it utterly out of order, starting with the third, then the fourth, then the second and saving the first for last), Angels & Insects and The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye.

Based on what the critics say about The Children's Book, I'm afraid you might indeed have read her two best books. On the other hand, her other books don't generally have flaws that are *quite* as obvious as those in the contemporary plotline of Possession. The "showing off" that you were bothered by to some extent, though, that's present everywhere, as you may have suspected already.

Of the books I've read that you haven't yet, I think Babel Tower is probably the best. Perhaps not coincidentally, it also has that intertextual thing going on by combining the main plot - about feminism, art, censorship and love in its various forms in early-sixties Britain - with excerpts from a fictional book about an utopian society going astray. It's the third book in the series (Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower, A Whistling Woman), which chronicles the life of a post-war British woman, Frederica Potter, from adolescence to her forties or thereabouts, with her family and friends as recurring supporting cast. Which book of the series one prefers depends, I would think, largely on which topics one is most interested in. The second book has Frederica finding her way in Cambridge while her older sister, also graduated from Cambridge, tries to get used to marriage and a family without the intellectual stimulation she's used to (and as the name indicates, painting and especially Van Gogh is a major topic). The fourth book focuses more on psychology and various kinds of psychological problems, with a plot set in that infamous spring and summer of 1968.


So before reading Tower of Babel I really should read the two preceeding books in the series?

Since you mentioned your interest in the spiritualism mentioned in Possession, I should tell you that the second story in Angels & Insects (it's a book with two stories, so both are of novella length) goes into that topic in more detail (it also concerns Tennyson, which I only discovered rather late; I dare say my reading of it would've been different if I'd known from the start that the author referred to in this story was real rather than invented as in Possession). Personally I preferred the former story in that book, about a Victorian entomologist in search of a wife, but as I said, my reading of the second story might've been different if I had recognized early on that it was about Tennyson - or if I'd known the poem of his that is central to the story.


Oooh. That sounds very nice. All of them, actually, but I was thinking of the Tennyson one. It would be interesting to compare how her treatment of a real author compares to her treatment of a fictional one.

*MySmiley*
structured procrastinator
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/Other Liteature: Possession by A.S. Byatt - 06/07/2010 06:02:40 PM 3694 Views
Re: Excuse me. I have a very clear recollection of writing to you about Possession. - 06/07/2010 06:43:34 PM 925 Views
I'm sure I did too. - 06/07/2010 07:00:06 PM 823 Views
Re: I'm sure I did too. - 07/07/2010 12:05:16 AM 805 Views
Re: I'm sure I did too. - 07/07/2010 08:32:29 AM 770 Views
Re: I'm sure I did too. - 07/07/2010 09:04:15 AM 826 Views
Hm. - 10/07/2010 12:55:20 AM 734 Views
Re: Excuse me. I have a very clear recollection of writing to you about Possession. - 07/07/2010 12:04:03 AM 874 Views
Re: No no. I talked about - 07/07/2010 12:49:30 AM 755 Views
Re: No no. I talked about - 07/07/2010 09:01:28 AM 781 Views
Coincidentally, it was also a digested read in the Guardian. - 09/07/2010 03:48:09 PM 891 Views
Meh.... - 09/07/2010 07:54:12 PM 799 Views
Awww. - 10/07/2010 12:54:44 AM 779 Views
Re: Awww. - 10/07/2010 07:14:37 PM 765 Views
Re: Meh.... - 10/07/2010 11:24:43 AM 787 Views
Re: Meh.... - 10/07/2010 07:15:29 PM 829 Views
It's a sign of it being a good book that you can like it for such different reasons from mine. - 24/07/2010 10:42:39 PM 886 Views
Re: It's a sign of it being a good book that you can like it for such different reasons from mine. - 25/07/2010 09:09:50 AM 756 Views

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