If you know anything about me, you know that I get my work done on time. Well ahead of time for the most part. So it is with great shame that I admit a failure to meet my first deadline in my first read-along: A.S. Byatt’s Possession. In my defense, I’ve read it before, and had a terrible headache on Sunday and Monday. Also on Monday, I fell down and banged my knee badly enough that I took narcotic pain medication and watched 12 Monkeys when I got home, instead of reading Possession. The knee feels much better now, thanks for asking.
I read Possession when I was a senior in college, taking a British literature class and recovering from mono. I remember reading it while lying on my bed at my mom’s house and loving it. I loved it enough that not only do I still have my copy, but I also knew exactly where it was on my shelves.
When I cracked it open, I was amused to discover notes scrawled in the margins by 21-year-old me. I felt rather like Roland, discovering letters from Randolph Ash tucked away in one of his old books. My favorite so far is the notation “Incestuous Menage a Trois” jotted after the “Glass Coffin” story. Took me a few minutes to read my own writing. Thought “menage” said “marriage.” Wonder if Roland and Maud had any trouble reading Ash and LaMotte’s handwriting.
I did not remember Possession being hard to get into, but when I discovered the existence of this read-along, I also discovered people who have tried to read it and given up. As far as I’ve gotten this time around, I understand the difficulty. Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness hits it on the head when she points out that Roland is a weak character to get things going. As soon as he meets Maud, I’m immediately more engaged.
Byatt’s major achievement here is writing between styles. She’s created letters and works meant to be written by fictional poets during the Victorian era, while the bulk of the narrative concerns scholars in the modern age. I remember being awed by how skillfully she brought those facets together. But I confess, I don’t really “get” poetry, least of all Victorian poetry.
To sum up, not only am I surprised I had a little trouble getting into it this time, I’m surprised I didn’t have a lot of trouble getting into it last time.
I will press on, see if I can catch up by Monday.