So much for closing out the round last Friday. ^^; Sorry for being such a laggard -- and for dragging things out for the rest of the community! Will try to do better next time.
I had qem_chibati
's list but either couldn't find the books in time (Forest of Dreams, Nice) or had already read them (The Lady and the Tiger, the two Discworld novels). Instead I read Possession
by A. S. Byatt, recommended by tarigwaemir
. This is a very good book. It opens with a diligent, methodical, self-contained postgrad (Roland) who is doing work on R. H. Ash, a fictitious Victorian poet who is kind of like Borghes - fascinated by all kinds of things, prolific, well-read, more interested in asking questions than in pronouncing judgments, respected by contemporaries, etc. Roland toils in obscurity and poverty, supported by his girlfriend, who also did her dissertation on Ash; but where he got high marks, she was suspected of sponging off Roland's ideas and discouraged from continuing in academia. So now she (resentfully) supports the household through low-level filing and secretarial work.
Roland was drawn to his dissertation subject because as far as anyone knew, the poet R. H. Ash lived a long, happy, domestic, contemplative, stable, unexciting home life and yet produced TONS of very exciting poetry - indicating an intellectual adventurism that didn't seem to require any "real life" adventurism. All that is turned upside down when Roland discovers what appears to be the draft of a passionate love letter, pressed between the pages of one of Ash's books at the London Library, written to a woman who is not the poet's wife. This mystery woman later turns out to be Christabel LaMotte, a less-well-known female poet whose star is on the rise among feminists. LaMotte's works range from pious domestic poems thought to be appropriate to her gender, to a long epic poem based on the mythological fairy Melusine with forceful wording, powerful metaphor, and (Ash gushes) "striking originality".
At the same time as we learn about the relationship between Ash and LaMotte, we also watch the developing relationship between Roland and Maud Bailey, a Christabel scholar who is so afraid of losing herself that she maintains a rigid separation from all people -- espeially men -- and never lets down her hair - literally! Maud is more brilliant than Roland, and also mentally tougher, but at the same time more brittle. ( Collapse )
Although what I've written so far makes Possession
sound like a totally abstract and academic book (it has very strong academic themes and is about academics), I also want to point out that Roland and Maud have discovered a set of highly-charged love letters between two very good poets that completely changes the scholarship on both, and they follow in the footsteps of Ash and LaMotte by running away together to France, where they discover dark secrets and are pursued by other scholars equally eager to solve the mystery. So you know, it's more like a vision of what academic research can be like on a really, really exciting day.