Books

A.S. Byatt, Award-Winning Author of POSSESSION, Dies at 87

Academic and intellectual British novelist A.S. Byatt has died at 87. In a statement, her publisher Chatto & Windus said she had passed away in her home, but a cause of death was not given.

A scholar and critic, Byatt is best known for her 1990 novel Possession, which she won the Booker Prize for and which was made into a 2002 movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Through this award-winning book, as well as her 11 novels and six short story collections, she came to be known as as an academically-minded writer, stating herself that, “I am not an academic who happens to have written a novel, I am a novelist who happens to be quite good academically.”

Though Byatt achieved great success through her writing — with books like Angels and Insects being made into a1995 Oscar-nominated movie and gaining a teaching position at University College London — she had her share of tragedy. When her son Charles was 11, he was killed by a drunk driver. Though she didn’t overtly write about her experience with grieving his loss, it had decidedly changed her writing: “I suddenly thought, Why the hell not have happy endings? Everybody knows they’re artificial. Why not have this pleasure, as one has the pleasure of rhyme, as one has the pleasure of color?”

Though complete information on her survivors is unknown, Byatt had three daughters with her husband, and leaves behind a writing legacy that includes being named one of the 50 Greatest British Authors Since 1945 by The Times of London, and being made a dame of the British Empire in 1999 for her contributions to literature.

In a 2016 interview, she said, “I think most of my life I’ve felt very lucky, because I expected not to be able to write books. And I never really wanted to do anything else.”

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.

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