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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | links | about the author

To purchase Possession

Title: Possession
Author: A.S.Byatt
Genre: Novel
Written: 1990
Length: 576 pages
Availability: Possession - US
Possession - UK
Possession - Canada
Possession - India
Possession - France
Besessen - Deutschland
Possessione - Italia
Posesión - España
  • Booker Prize, 1990
  • Possession was made into a film in 2002, directed by Neil LaBute and starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Read it ages ago, haven't returned to it yet

Chances that we will review it:

May well revisit it at some point

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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Christian Science Monitor A 16/11/1990 Thomas D'Evelyn
Entertainment Weekly A- 30/11/1990 L.S. Klepp
The NY Times A- 25/10/1990 C. Lehmann-Haupt
The NY Times Book Rev. A 21/10/1990 Jay Parini
Newsweek . 21/1/1991 Peter S. Prescott
Time . 5/11/1990 Paul Gray

  Review Consensus:


  From the Reviews:
  • "Possession is about reading. (...) Possession is not just satire; it’s mostly romance. (...) At times, Byatt’s novel reads like a mixture of Jackie Collins and Vladimir Nabokov. (...) While her earlier novels seemed sometimes swamped by their literary baggage, something in Possession makes the literary hocus-pocus genuinely fascinating, even inspiring. (...) Brilliantly put together, warm, witty and wise" - Thomas D'Evelyn, Christian Science Monitor

  • "Possession is a sometimes dazzling, sometimes dutiful, always authentic- looking collection of imaginary Victorian cultural bric-a-brac -- poems, letters, journals -- around which she weaves a story of romantic possession, scholarly possession of the past, and scholars possessed by the past." - L.S. Klepp, Entertainment Weekly

  • "Possession is most of all about speech, language, the pleasure of reading, the singularity of reading. (...) One can quibble at some of the lengths to which Ms. Byatt goes. (...) Possession accomplishes its essential purpose. It makes one read and reflect on language and consider what it meant to another age." - Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

  • "As Possession progresses, it seems less and less like the usual satire about academia and more like something by Jorge Luis Borges. The most dazzling aspect of Possession is Ms. Byatt's canny invention of letters, poems and diaries from the 19th century. (...) Possession is a tour de force that opens every narrative device of English fiction to inspection without, for a moment, ceasing to delight." - Jay Parini, The New York Times Book Review

  • "With its intricate thematic reflections, Possession is as solid and entertaining a novel as has been seen in years." - Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

  • "(I)ts manifest intelligence, subtle humor and extraordinary texturing of the past within the present make Possession an original, and unforgettable, contribution. " - Paul Gray, Time

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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Possession: Reviews: Possession - the film: A.S.Byatt: Other books by A.S.Byatt under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       British author Antonia Susan Byatt lived 1936 to 2023. Winner of the 1990 Booker Prize for the bestselling Possession, she was the author of numerous highly acclaimed works of fiction. She was the sister of author Margaret Drabble.

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