Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A. S. Byatt

No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed. . . . I am not at all safe with you.  But I have no desire to be elsewhere.
From her highly-praised novel, Possession: A Romance, which was published in 1990.  Byatt (whose sister, Margaret Drabble, is also a distinguished novelist) was born on this date in 1936.

Possession is a fascinating literary detective story and also the most moving love story I've ever read.  The main characters are two Victorian poets and two modern-day academics who discover the story of the poets' relationship through their letters and journals.  Large parts of the book consist of poems supposedly written by the poets, which are so authentic that you can't help but be impressed by how learned Byatt is -- but I found much of that poetry essentially impenetrable.  It doesn't matter: you can skip all that and still be captivated by the rest of the book. 

The 2002 movie version (starring Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam as the poets and Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart as the modern couple) is good, but can't be compared to the book.

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