Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Impressed by 'Possession'

It took me more than a month, and a few digressions to less taxing worlds, but I've finally finished reading Possession by A. S. Byatt.

It's not a book to go to for a light read or an adrenalin rush. It isn't 'interesting' or simple, it isn't heart-warming or mind-numbing. But I found that it lingers, like a faint perfume or a half-formed question.

It's a labyrinth from the present (in the book) to the past, it has so many layers and characters and metaphors that one read is simply not enough. It professes to be a romance, which it is, doubly so. It is also a mystery, a satire, a commentary, a history, a cultural study and poetry, with a bit of science, religion and philosophy thrown in.

I read it fairly slowly, which is unusual for me, and I did peek at the last chapter when the suspense got too much, which is pretty usual for me. Though it answered most of the questions it set out to answer, it left several questions in the mind, especially to someone like me, whose idea of Victorian times is confined to Agatha Christie's observation that the Victorian mind is like a 'sink'. There were many references and allusions that I desperately wished to understand better; there was so much poetry that I wanted to interpret better.

My biggest grouse with the book, however, is that the core of the book, the poem about Melusine, is incomplete. When Byatt took so much effort to compose poetry, I wish she had taken a little more effort and finished the tantalisingly beautiful poem.

All in all, a really rich book, if you're prepared to enter its world, for it makes no effort to make the task easier for you. Like all good books, I won't forget this one in a hurry.