This book is one that will make you think (but not in a way that makes it feel like work!). It was published in 1990 by a British author, and the setting is in the late 1980's in England.
Two academics meet when they find out their respective poets (which they study extensively) may have met. They set off on a journey to find out what really happened between Cristabel LaMott and Randolph Ash, and more than one love story unfolds.
The telling of the story is unique. Byatt creates the fictional poets based loosely on Robert Browning for Ash and on Christina Rossetti and Emily Dickinson for LaMott. The chapters are rich with the works of Ash and LaMott, including fairy tales, poetry, and prose. There are also the letters exchanged in secret between LaMott and Ash. The setting goes back and forth between the academics' 1980's world and the 19th century setting of Ash and LaMott.
There are many parallels drawn between the Victorian couple and the modern-day one, as well as several different interpretations of the title, Possession. The ending is a good one, but I won't spoil that for you.
My copy is over 550 pages long, but I found it to be a page-turner. At times the letters and seemingly-unrelated poetry that interrupts the story were annoying and hard to wade through, but upon a second read you see that each one fits into the story and pertains to the chapter it is contained within.
If you like literary fiction this is a good book to read. It's challenging enough to keep your interest but not too difficult. There was also a movie version but it was only loosely based on the book. It is subtitled "A Romance, " but I think mystery is a better description.