A.S. Byatt, British writer and author of Booker Prize-winning ‘Possession,’ dies at 87

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“Possession” author A.S. Byatt has died, her longtime publisher announced. She was 87.
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British writer A.S. Byatt, the author of award-winning, bestselling novels including “Possession” and “The Children’s Book,” has died.

Byatt’s publisher Chatto & Windus announced on Friday that the author “died peacefully at home surrounded by close family” on Thursday. No cause of death was revealed. She was 87.

“A girl from Sheffield with a strong European sensibility... Antonia had a remarkable mind which produced a unique creative vision,” Chatto & Windus, a British imprint of Penguin Random House, said in its statement.


The author was born Antonia Susan Drabble on Aug. 24, 1936, and published her first novel, “The Shadow of a Sun,” in 1964. Byatt also wrote essays, novellas and short stories.

She is best known for “Possession,” which was published in 1990. The novel follows two academics as they chart the unknown romance between two famous Victorian poets. In The Times, the novelist Carolyn See reviewed the book and deemed it “a masterpiece of wordplay and adventure, a sampler of styles, a quilt of scholarly methods and a novel that compares with both Stendahl and Joyce.” “Possession” won the Booker Prize for fiction the year it was published. Upon receiving the honor, Byatt quipped that she would spend the prize money “on a swimming pool in her home in the South of France,” according to the award’s website.

“Possession” was later adapted into a 2002 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. Neil LaBute directed the movie. The Oscar-nominated film “Angels & Insects,” directed by Philip Haas, was also an adaptation of Byatt’s 1992 novella “Morpho Eugenia” and starred Mark Rylance.

Most recently, Byatt’s short story collection “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” got the Hollywood treatment. In 2022, “Mad Max” director George Miller adapted that story into “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba.

Byatt’s body of work also includes four novels known as the Frederica Quartet. Comprising the series of novels are “The Virgin in the Garden,” “Still Life,” “Babel Tower” and “A Whistling Woman.” She also authored “The Children’s Book,” which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 2009.

Her most recent publication was “Medusa’s Ankles: Selected Stories,” released in 2021.

For her work in literature, Byatt was also appointed Commander of the British Empire in 1990, and Dame of the British Empire in 1999


The author married economist Ian Byatt in 1959, and they had a son, who died in an accident, and a daughter. They divorced in 1969, and she remarried to Peter Duffy, and welcomed two daughters. She was the eldest of four children. Her siblings were “The Milestone” novelist Margaret Drabble — with whom she had a strained relationship — art historian Helen Langdon, and barrister Richard Drabble.

Upon accepting the Booker Prize in 1990, Byatt admitted she had convinced herself “absolutely to the point of depression that I was not going to win and then became interested in everybody [else’s works].”

“The Booker Prize does, I think, promote reading. It caused people to get very excited, not only about the books that get shortlisted but about all those very, very good books which ought to be shortlisted and were not,” she said. “Possession,” she added, “was written on a kind of high, after stopping being academic about the pleasure of reading.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.