Byatt’s novels are so well researched and so informative that they seem as if a non-fiction and fiction books have been merged together. Her book Possession incorporates almost all the Greek mythological stories and this book (600 pages) makes you live through the history of London from 1890s to World War 1- including the founding of museums like Victoria & Albert Museum, galleries like Tate and schools like LSE, the role WSPU (Women’s Social & Political Union) played in fighting for women suffrage, the impact of world war 1 etc. It also so well captures the essence of Fabian society in a fictional saga involving so many characters that it reminded me of Tolstoy.
The main protagonist- Olive writes stories for Childern and within the book there are several children stories like the story of a little boy Tom who doesn’t have a shadow. Through the book I learnt of how the French version of Cinderella by Charles Perrault is so different from the grotesque German version by Brothers Grimm.
It covers every aspect of pottery and in addition to the fictional character Benedict Fludd and Philip Warren, mentions a famous potter Bernard Palissy.
Also I came to know June 23rd is celebrated as Midsummer as the longest day instead of June 21st because St John’s day is of June 24. Besides Fabian ideology, Kropotkin’s anarchism and Karl Marx socialism are also discussed. I can go on about the things I learnt from the novel, as the list is endless.
Although reading a 600 pages book is a Herculean task to accomplish but this book is worth a read till the last page and at no point you feel Byatt is rambling on. In fact towards the end the women’s struggle for suffrage and world war 1 makes it more interesting.