Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Last week I read A.S. Byatt's book, Possession.

I had to make myself finish it, as I did not like it at all. Twice before I'd tried to read it, and twice before I'd given up before making it even a third of the way through the book. I'd like to be able to say that when I came to the end of the story I was glad to have read it, but I can't.

This was a tale of adultery, not romance. The lives affected were train-wrecked, and no one emerged happy or content, not even the people in the outer story.

The outer story involves two literary researchers, a man and a woman, each researching a different literary figure - also a man and a woman - from the mid-1800's. They realize that their figures apparently had significant contact with one another, even though there is no public record of such. They travel, search, read and interview to find out the extent of the supposed relationship. Their 20th century lives as academic professionals reminded me of the worst of academic life. And unlike Lucky Jim, they don't realize how pompous and dreary and humorous their obsession with their area of study is.

The inner story is of the two literary figures, both poets, and minor ones at that. The book is filled with pages and pages of the poetry these fictional characters wrote, and I didn't find the poems enjoyable. In fact, after a while I started skipping whole chunks of poetry, or barely reading a line here and there.

At least the story came to a conclusion. I was grateful for that, as it seemed as though it might never end, or end ambiguously, like Villette .

On Monday I started reading The Thirteenth Tale.

I'm afraid to make comparisons to other books, lest I spoil the story's twists and turns. So what can I say? I liked it. I couldn't put it down today until I finished it. I immediately handed it to Jacy and told her she has to read it so I can talk about it with someone else. At first I thought I wouldn't enjoy it - some of the characters were just too repulsive. But soon they didn't really figure in the story much, and then the story really got interesting. And I very much appreciate the fact that Setterfield neatly tied up every storyline and explained every character by the end of the book.

I'm glad I didn't wait for the library to buy it, but instead shelled out the $$$ for a hardcover edition. It was worth every penny - a fine indulgence.



Anonymous Cindy said...

One of the things I liked about Possession although LIKED is the wrong word entirely, is that it made you feel utterly discouraged about adultery.

I am so glad you enjoyed TTT. I felt some trepidation about that recommendation because like Possession it deals with a few not-very-nice things. But it is a grand story.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Donna Boucher said...

Oh dear....I think I will have to go buy this book...I am # 156 at the library :o)

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Jane said...

I was debating about reading Possession but I think you have confirmed that I can give it a skip!!! Look forward to more of your reviews.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Sherry said...

Hmmm. Possession is also on my list, but I've read enough sordid adultery books this year (The End of the Affair by Graham Greene was recommended by various people, but I didn't care for it.) Maybe I'll at least mov it to the bottom of the list and read The Thirteenth Tale instead.

10:31 AM  
Blogger booklogged said...

Your review of Thirteenth Tale sounded much like my own.

10:46 PM  
Blogger booklogged said...

Laura, I didn't see any connection to Jane Eyre either, other than the references to the book. The storyline certainly didn't coorelate.

4:21 PM  
Blogger michelle said...

Loved Thirteenth Tale. Just like you, I couldn't put it down. So far I have passed my copy on twice--once to my sister and once to my mom.

We are going to discuss it in our online book group this month. Feel free to drop in!

6:14 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the invitation, Michelle! I just might do that!

1:19 PM  
Blogger Dy said...

Hmmmm, The Thirteenth Tale sounds like a good one to add to the nightstand! Thanks for the reviews!


2:41 AM  

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