Are ever-constant in your changefulness,
Like that still thread of falling river, one
From source to last embrace in the still pool
Ever-renewed and ever-moving on
From first to last a myriad water-drops
And you—I love you for it—are the force
That moves and holds the form.”
In Possession: A Romance, A.S. Byatt has penned an involved, interwoven, highly unusual novel. Literary in a way I haven't encountered since university, the story contains layer upon layer of love, art and pain, told through prose, poems, letters and documents. All of these were written by Byatt herself (yes, I Googled to check--that's how convincing the work is), in a rich flurry of fantasy and wordplay, evoking profound relationships between lovers, relatives, between a poet and his work, a scholar and her subject, between strangers, enemies and interlopers.
Each character makes his or her own imprint on the mind. Each has not only her own voice but also her own body and his own way of interacting with the world, complete with particular blindnesses. Leonora is passionate for, well, passion, and accepts “no” from her friend only after wheedling and pressuring her. Christabel, who struggles to live as an independent woman and artist in the Victorian era, finds her goals compromised by a deep love affair with a married poet. Roland's scholarly temptation to secrecy kicks off the entire questing plot, but also leads him into self-growth against his will.
If you enjoy poetry or complex characters in complicated relationships, you'll sink into this book like a mermaid into the sea. I particularly recommend this book to fellow English majors or lit. geeks.