Somewhere along the way, I began to fall in love with Possession, but it probably wasn’t until this last week of reading. I respected it before now. I even liked it, but I wasn’t sure about it. The last 100 pages, though? They are perfect.
I don’t like to read books that aren’t keeping my attention and, as you know, I started and stopped reading Possession many times. But every time, I was fairly certain that I would like it if I had the patience to keep reading. So instead of sending the book off to another home, I kept putting it back on my shelf for the right day.
It turns out that reading Possession slowly was the way to read it. I think that having a span of time in between sections gave me time to mull over what happened, to really let it sink in, before continuing with the story. After the first week, I found myself excited to find out what happened next, even when I had previously been frustrated with the narrative structure.
Because Possession is a story about passion and love and history and betrayal, but it is also a story about narrative structure and literature and scholarship. As soon as one narrative gets going, the story switches to another and then another. It’s hard to see the continuity until the end, when everything starts to come together and have meaning. It’s a book that I imagine only gets richer with each reading, which makes me a little bit sad that my book has fallen completely apart.
John Green has said that it doesn’t really matter if you guess the ending. You should still be able to enjoy getting there. I do get a lot of pleasure out of guessing the ending of a book before it happens. I feel clever, after all. And I do enjoy seeing how an author eventually makes everything come together to that conclusion. I suppose it’s really only a complaint when something that should be surprising is so obvious. If the intent is surprise and you see it coming from a mile away, that’s a flaw. But when clues are cleverly placed and you have just been smart enough to figure them out? That’s a compliment.
I just spent a lot of words talking about something that didn’t happen in Possession. I didn’t guess the ending before it happened and there is delight in that as well. When a story has carried you along so expertly that you don’t even bother to try to figure it out and guess ahead, well, I love that, too.
Possession is a book that is worth the wait. It’s difficult and frustrating to get through the beginning, but it is worth it. It’s worth it to read it slowly, a couple of chapters a week. I’m glad that I had people telling me it was worth it, so now I’m telling you.
I don’t have much else to say about Possession, other than reading it. This post isn’t even really about Possession, so much as the experience of reading it. Maybe I will post again, maybe I’ll be a little bit more critical, but right now I’m just enjoying the feeling of finishing an amazing book.
Some favorite quotes:
They took to silence. They touched each other without comment and without progression. A hand on a hand, a clothed arm, resting on an arm. An ankle overlapping an ankle, as they sat on a beach, and not removed.
One night they fell asleep, side by side, on Maud’s bed, where they had been sharing a glass of Calvados. He slept curled against her back, a dark comma against her pale elegant phrase. (458)
What an amazing word “heady” is, en passant, suggesting both acute sensuous alertness and its opposite, the pleasure of the brain as opposed to the viscera — though each is implicated in the other, as we know very well, with both, when they are working. (511)
He had time to feel the strangeness of before and after; an hour ago there had been no poems, and now they came like rain and were real. (514)
In the morning, the whole world had a strange new smell. It was the smell of the aftermath, a green smell, a smell of shredded leaves and oozing resin, of crushed wood and splashed sap, a tart smell, which bore some relation to the smell of bitten apples. It was the smell of death and destruction and it smelled fresh and lively and hopeful. (551)
Thank you to Kim and all the other participants who joined in the #readbyatt discussions on their blogs and on Twitter! It has been a more meaningful reading experience with co-conspirators.
If you didn’t join in the readalong, maybe because you already read Possession, we are doing a watch-along of the movie. Our tentative plans are for this Sunday, April 7th at 7PM Central Time. We will be live tweeting the movie and we hope you’ll join us! If we decide to change the time for any reason, we’ll be sure to give you ample notice.