I could hardly put down the last top 100 (actually more like 150) book I just read. Possession by A.S. Byatt was almost like porn for word geeks. Its the story of two literary scholars, Roland and Maud, who study the poetic works of Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte, respectively, as they try to discover the mysterious connection between the two authors. It begins when Roland discovers a draft of a letter in one of Ash's personal books written to an unknown woman, who is evidently not his wife. Unlike much of his other letters, this one is very personal and almost passionate, so unlike Ash who is considered a dry scientific scholar through and through. Using clues in the letter, Roland begins to suspect it was written for Christabel LaMotte, a poet very popular with feminists and a dedicated lesbian. Did Ash send the letter? Did she reply? His questions lead him to Maud, an authority on LaMotte, and the two begin a quest to discover the connection between the two that wil change traditional scholarship completely. I don't want to go too much into the search because each clue is so integral to the plot, and I so much want everyone to go out and discover them personally.
Its part detective mystery, part steamy romance, and total geekery at its best. Full of traditional poetry and amazing word use, this is easily one of my top favorites. The character development was top notch, especially the relationship between Maud and Roland, which was in no way formulaic boy meets girl and they get wrapped up in the romance and immediately fall in love (or into bed). The interactions between them are honest and real. And of course I love the historical background story. It is important to note that these poets are entirely fictional, which makes it pretty impressive that the author wrote pages of epic poety in their styles throughout the book, Ash being very male and LaMotte strong female. Byatt tells their histories in so convincing a fashion, I had to look them up to see if they actually existed. Very moving page turner. Really, don't bother with the movie; it's a pale imitation. It's nearly impossible to reach the depth of this story in two hours, although I love Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam as the star-crossed poets.
A thick read, over 500 pages, but well worth it. There were some extra characters that dragged the story down for me, and the old style poetry can get a little thick, but very deserving of the honor of top book of all time. Especially for word geeks.