Romancing the text

The complicated novel Possession  by A. S. Byatt is a double-tiered romance and a literary brainteaser. Like John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman or Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia, the two works it most resembles, the novel seesaws across two centuries. Roland Michell and Maud Bailey are late 20th-century British literary scholars. Following clues that have eluded generations of biographers and critics, they discover a romantic link between the subject of his research, Randolph Ash, and the subject of hers, Christabel LaMotte, a pair of mid-19th-century poets. As Roland and Maud immerse themselves in this discovery, they too begin to fall in love. It's an in­genious story, although a reader can get bogged down in Byatt's too-clever literary parodies.


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