August Book CLub Notes

Hi Every one

Thank you all for coming, what a great book we had up for discussion this month. A.S. Byatt's Booker Prize winning novel Possession has a wonderful mix of romance,historical, mystery and academia.

The focus of the story being on Maud Bailey and Roland Michell, two scholars who are both researching poets. After Roland finds a draft of a letter (which he then purloins from the library he found it in) from Randolph Ash to an unknown lady the search begins, who is this lady ? and could this help Roland with his research on the poet ? This is how Maud and Roland meet and thus begins the adventure within the story.

Byatt uses a wonderful series of Poems and Letters between Ash and LaMotte (the unnamed lady in the original letter) to add depth and fluidity to the story, each chapter began with a poem or segment from a letter drawing the reader into the entwined romances and also there mysteries. What was so lovely was that the poets were completely fictional, Byatt created them and in doing so could use them to portray the time period and its influences. Both poets had a very individual style, Ash's poems were open and sparse and Lamotte's were simplistic and showed obvious patterns of rhythm and rhyme. There were also many references to to great poets and authors throughout the book and we all thought that it would have been nice to have studied this a little further to get the full impact of all the nuances. For example Roland "Purloins" the original papers from the library, this is a direct reference to Poe's "The Purloined Letters" which was said to have been the first example of the detective fiction genre.

Although some of us thought that the poetry was burdensome, and the novel somewhat wordy (it runs a hefty 555 pages) it was generally agreed that after the first 100 pages we had all been taken into the story and wanted to continue and find out what would happen next. What we also found was that the poetry held the story together, creating a branch from the modern day back into the past. Although it would have been nice to have had a study guide to use as reference along side it as many of us were rusty when it comes to reading and understanding poetry.

Possession was a great title and the author went to great lengths to utilize it within the book from wide and varied angles,
such as :

the possession of the letters
being possessed by something
being possessed from a distance
trying to be independent from possession
lovers and how they can possess you
greed and how it can possess a person

The main themes of the book focused on religion, feminism and evolution. All important topics back in the Victorian times that Ash and LaMotte lived in, which were also reflected in the modern time with Roland and Maud.

Overall I think we all loved the book for its wonderful story and the fact that it challenged us to read in areas that we were not so familiar with.

For any one that is interested I still have copies behind the desk and I have also ILL a study guide to help with Historical references and poem commentary.

Next months book will be Appetite for Life a Biography about Julia Child. We will be meeting on the 13th of September at 7pm I look forward to hearing your thoughts

Happy Reading

Ellie Rock


Anonymous said…
sounds like a fascinating read...AS Byatt is often on the radio wishes southend book club

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