PossessionPossession by A.S. Byatt is not a straightforward tale. It tells of an affair between Victorian-era poets Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte.

But the romance is revealed largely through letters and journals and essays and poems written by Ash and LaMotte and those around them; and it is slowly uncovered by present-day scholars Roland Michell and Maud Bailey - whose own romance is growing.

Near the beginning of the novel, I questioned the frequent context switching between the present and the mid-19th century. I wondered why we should bother with the present-day characters. But, as the book progressed, the two stories became more intertwined. I began to enjoy the historical discoveries, as Roland and Maud made them; I appreciated the ethical dilemmas Byatt presented of learning about the past, while respecting the privacy of the dead; and I was intrigued by the academic rivalries, as others heard of these discoveries and raced to uncover details more quickly.

Mostly through Roland and Maude's eyes, we watch the growth of the relationship between Randolph and Christabel and the effects of those relationships. Ash has a wife and LaMotte has a lesbian partner and both learn of the relationship and are profoundly altered by it.

I enjoyed Byatt's poetry, which she attributed to her fictional authors/lovers. Byatt does a good job of giving different voices to the writings of each character, including the styles of their poetry.

I really liked the ending, which revealed much about the lives of Randolph and Christabel, much of which was never discovered by Roland, Maud, and their contemporaries.

Possession is a good book for fans of poetry, detective stories, and historical romances.