Possession: A Romance is a 1990 bestselling novel by British writer A. S. Byatt. It is a winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize.
Part historical as well as contemporary fiction, the title Possession refers both to issues of ownership and independence between lovers, and to the possession that a biographer feels of their subject. The novel incorporates many different styles and devices: diaries, letters and poetry, in addition to third-person narration. Possession is as concerned with the present day as it is with the Victorian era, pointing out the differences between the two time periods satirizing such things as modern academia and mating rituals.
The novel concerns the relationship between two fictional Victorian poets, Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte, as revealed to present day academics Roland Michell and Maud Bailey. Following a trail of clues from various letters and journals, they attempt to uncover the truth about Ash and LaMotte's past before it is discovered by rival colleagues.
The use of the Epigraph
In Possession, an epigraph is used to head several chapters, particularly those early on in the book. Byatt uses it as a structural device, primarily for a substrative function, to outline the common themes which formulate in that particular chapter. Each epigraph serves to point the reader to important images or ideas that are going to be expanded upon throughout the chapter.
This is manifest in chapter one, wherein the epigraph is used to introduce the book. As the first thing a reader will see, it serves to incorporate not only those themes primarily used in that chapter, but also themes frequented throughout the novel as a whole. The most obvious point to make in regards to the epigraph heading the first chapter is the introduction of a "colour scheme."
Awards and nominations
1990 Booker Prize
1990 Irish Times-Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize
The novel was adapted into a 2002 feature film called Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Maud Bailey; Aaron Eckhart as Roland Michell; and Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle as the fictional poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte.