Possession / A Romance

Voice Card  -  Volume 33  -  Stuart Card Number 9  -  Fri, Sep 9, 1994 11:32 AM

This is ONE OF 3 responses to VC 32 John 9 ("Great Idea")...

"This is a GREAT idea. Maybe our resident English professor, Dr. Stuart, could design a "pela-course" (kind of like a tele-course but for archiPELAgoans).

"Our first task is selecting a book to read together, maybe a challenging sort of book that we've all wanted to read but have never found the time."

Well, I don't know about designing a course, but here's a suggestion for a first book we could read together: POSSESSION, A Romance by A.S. Byatt.

I've picked it because it seems to be a book (I haven't read it yet) that would appeal to both literary and non-literary types. The book was on the New York Times Best Seller list for quite a while and it received good critical reviews. I've had writer and professor friends recommend it, as well as non-literary types.

The book takes place, I'm told, in the 19th Century and is the fictionalized romance of two major British poets at the time (thinly veiled to be Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I believe). It contains correspondence and poems by these characters, and is immensely readable, I'm told. People can read it and feel that they don't have to read the Brownings themselves (not necessarily a selling point for me). It's around 531 pages, so it should last us a couple of issues. Here are excerpts from the blurbs:

"This intelligent, literary, and ambitious thriller will take its place alongside The Name of the Rose and Waterland as Umberto Eco's scholarly monk and Graham Swift's history teacher are joined by another unconventional type of natural detective, the literatic critic. . . [Byatt] combines the drive of the thriller with the measured exploration of human nature. . . , and throughout she threads the poetry and passion of 'romance.'" --- The Times (London).

"Possession bids fair to be looked back upon as one of the most memorable novels of the 1990's." -- Times Literary Suplement.

"Iris Murdoch had better look to her laurels." -- Evening Standard.

Has any Archipelagoan out there read this book? If so, or if not, shall we as a group take a ramble through it. Any other suggestions. What do you say, class ?