Study Guide

Sabine de Kercoz in Possession

By A.S. Byatt

Sabine de Kercoz

Sabine de Kercoz was one of Christabel LaMotte's distant cousins. The two women were related through their maternal grandmother (18.44), and whereas Christabel's family had migrated to England, Sabine's had stayed firmly rooted in their native Brittany.

Sabine is a crucial figure in Possession because it's only through her journals that we readers—and the novel's twentieth-century scholars—learn the details of Christabel's visit to Brittany in the autumn and winter of 1859–1860. Through Sabine, we also learn the secret that history had nearly swallowed whole—that is, the fact that Christabel LaMotte and Randolph Henry Ash had conceived a child. Talk about a scoop.

Sabine was just twenty years old when her cousin Christabel came to visit, and her writing reflects her age. She can be very mature, perceptive, and insightful, but she also has a tendency to let her imagination—and her moodiness—run away with her.

Like her cousin Christabel, Sabine has a passion for reading and writing. She wants to be a great novelist, and her journal entries make it clear that she has a knack for the written word. They also make it clear that she's a fan of Gothic romances, and those tastes come through in her descriptions of her home, her family, and the events that transpire during Christabel's strange and unusual stay.

For example, Sabine compares Christabel to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre soon after her cousin arrives. She also confesses that when her father started to clear out her late mother's room in preparation for Christabel's arrival, she "formed the mad idea that he had some project of marrying me, and was preparing my mother's room as a kind of bridal chamber" (19.43). Yikes.

Like her cousin Christabel, Sabine eventually finds herself living a very different kind of life from the one she imagined as a child. Through Ariane Le Minier, we learn that Sabine eventually married a much older man and died in childbirth not long afterwards. Although she did write a handful of poems and a number of novels before she died, her dream of being recognized as a great writer in her own time never came true (18.43; 19.381).

Shmoopers, the women in this family had it rough.