Posted by Jane Elizabeth on November 03, 1997 at 11:44:28:
When I used Cassia's link to Possession reviews, I read the NYT one, and in retrospect something struck me about it. The reviewer (who I like because he wrote a glowing review of P&P2 on the occasion of its rebroadcast, and he's a book guy) criticized Byatt for bringing Ash and Christabel to life. Oddly, he seemed to regard Roland and Maud as the "real" story and wanted the Victorian romance to exist only in R and M's research. I was thinking about this in context of my earlier post about the midpoint of the book, where the poets come to life on the train. I realized that at that moment, the book does essentially move to a different level.
Until then, the reader knows only as much as Maud and Roland. But at that moment, the balance of power shifts. We have the veil of years lifted from our eyes and begin to KNOW things about the past that the present-day characters will NEVER know: the details of the Yorkshire trip, the Boggle Hole visit, Ellen's secrets, the origin of Blanche's stones.
And the really key bit of knowing: that Christabel went to her grave never knowing if Randolph knew what happened to the baby. And finally, we know what NO character in the book except Ash knows: whose hair it was in his watch. (I don't count Maia, because she forgot immediately)
I'd love to have an HTML version of the book to search for the word "know." But it does crop up in many layers: the religious aspect of knowing vs. believing, ditto the seances, certainly in the modern mystery story of who-knows-what-when. And all the academic characters realize that their way of knowing Ash and LaMotte is thrown into doubt by the new evidence. What elaborate constructs they built on their supposedly comprehensive knowledge of their subjects!
Sorry for the long post, but I couldn't let Karen and Cassia have all the verbosity.
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