For the past ten days I've been immersed in this 1990 Booker Prize-Winning novel, by A.S. Byatt.
Just finished it, minutes ago -- and I shall now add it to my list of Books I Read That No Other Man on Earth Would Read.
The subtitle alone [A Romance] surely disqualifies it from any male-owned library shelf on this, or any other planet. And I'll admit, [as a colleague at work pointed out to me] even the cover of the book looks a bit light on the loafers! He said to me, in a noticeable tone of concern, "Umm, it looks rather effeminate."
I really enjoyed the book. I think it's superb, on many levels.
So, what does that say about me?
I think it says that I appreciate good literature, no matter what sort of appearance the book may have.
Or, perhaps I am possibly…….. no, never mind.
But enough about me! Let me say a few words about Possession.
While researching the [fictional] Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash, modern day  scholar Roland Michell happens upon some obscure snippets of amorous undelivered correspondence. Curiosity leads him to suspect that these scandalous amorations [<-- this should be a word, but isn't] were meant for Christabel LaMotte, a contemporary poet of the day. Michell consults with several LaMotte experts to cross-reference his own data, and foremost among these is the lovely Dr. Maud Bailey. Together, these two begin to unravel a seemingly endless trail of previously unknown intrigue -- they unearth a biographer's treasure-trove of documents, and as they pursue information about this century-old romance, other scholars emerge from their dusty hallways -- fighting for their own right to scoop the story. Does this sound exciting as all hell? If it doesn't [and it shouldn't, really] it's because it isn't.
The power of this book does not lie in anything dazzling or spectacular.
No cliff-hanging. Or even sex, really.
But for brilliance and depth, this book cannot be beat. It's a novel for people that love when a writer is writing so well, so intricately, that you know the gist of the tale will live with you forever.
In a way, it will possess you. The power lies in the vividness of the characterizations.
The author has done something that, in my experience with reading, I have never seen before. She has created a literature beyond her own novel. She has not only created the characters of of Ash and LaMotte, but also has managed to compose their works for us. [Essentially] books, within a book. Their poetry, their writings are here in Possession, and in such a real way that early on I looked these characters up on Wikipedia, because I thought they must be real personages.
But they aren't. They're Byatt's creations.
It's a gorgeous novel -- which I know shall remain for me in a category labelled "Timeless."
So, what's next on deck for me to read? Well, I already have it in my backpack to take to work with me tomorrow. As you can see by observing my "Currently Reading" sidebar, it's an equally masculine-entitled tome!
And if you'll excuse me, [the timer is "dinging"] -- I've got a late-night quiche that's ready to come out of the oven…