Friday, January 14, 2005

Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt

A book review by Zinta Aistars

# Hardcover: 640 pages
# Publisher: Modern Library; 2001 Modern Library ed edition (July, 2002)
# ISBN: 0679642382
# $17.95

Possession is a gourmet feast of subtle flavors and delicate spice. When it was first placed in my hands by a fellow writer in anticipation of my delight... I recognized the classically beautiful cover. I had picked this book up several times in a bookstore, several times put it down again. A romance? Not tonight, honey. Too often that label turns to something sickly sweet, nothing but indigestible corn. Mmm, but not this dish. This time I bit in. The more I tasted, the more I wanted. Byatt's prose is rich. Her attention to detail brings her created world alive to all senses. It is nearly impossible to write a fresh love story... haven't they all been told? And this one, a Victorian tale superimposed over a modern day tale of hearts, holds no new revelations on the theme. All the more impressive that Byatt so entices. Her scenes of intimacy perhaps impressed me most of all. Not the graphic slop so often appearing on the bestseller table, so cheaply won -- hers are subtle and fine, elegant and true, exquisite.

"They took to silence. They touched each other without comment and without progression. A hand on a hand, a clothed arm, resting on an arm. An ankle overlapping an ankle, as they sat on a beach, and not removed. One night they fell asleep, side by side, on Maud's bed, where they had been sharing a glass of Calvados. He slept curled against her back, a dark comma against her pale elegant phrase."

Perhaps the finish of the book is a bit predictable... but no less rings true and satisfying. One closes the cover with regret at the leaving behind of this lavish language, this world of lovers in two such different times who have connected both in body and mind. I am inspired to reach with a real hunger for the next Byatt treasure.

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