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kate_nepveu


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re-reading Byatt's Possession

I'm re-reading A.S. Byatt's Possession for the first time in approximately fifteen years (finally out in ebook form!) and so far I'm loving it. (I can feel moral judgments about the historical precipitating actions hovering waiting to be made, however, which is interesting because somehow I'd not looked at it from that angle before—I think this is partly because I first read the book when I was thirteen and imprinted on it whole-heartedly, and partly because I suspect the narrative is rigorously disinterested in such things. We shall see.)

But I have a question for those of you who've read it (and are around; how I wish teleportation was freely available, I would pop an early-waking Pip and myself over to Chicago to have breakfast and a nice comfortable character-gossip with papersky at Worldcon . . . ).

The correspondence. I've never been able to work this out. There are two letters that are quoted out-of-order while Roland and Maud are reading them, one from Randolph about poets writing while being "in love" (and his love for her) and one from Christabel using an egg riddle to defend her solitude. The last letter from Ash also says that he's burnt two of her letters.

Since the letters that Blanche intercepted are not in the "Correspondence" chapter, I think what's there is supposed to be what was recovered, not what was written. But I can't see where the two excerpted letters fit in, nor where there would be two extra letters from Christabel. Everything that's in that chapter seems to fit one-after-the-other, responses to each in turn. Has anyone else ever figured this out? I feel like this ought to work, that Byatt wouldn't have neglected to construct this as carefully as the rest of the texts, but I just don't see it.

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