LanguageHat has a post on the lengths to which publishers go to “localize” a novel. If the novel was originally published in Britain, say, some changes might be made prior to its U.S. publication. But in the case of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, the differences seem to go beyong localization efforts. Here are two paragraphs that he cites:
The U.K. version:
…he saw himself as a failure and felt vaguely responsible for this. He was a small man, with very soft, startling black hair and small regular features. Val called him Mole, which he disliked. He had never told her so.
The U.S. version:
…he saw himself as a failure and felt vaguely responsible for this. He was a compact, clearcut man, with precise features, a lot of very soft black hair, and thoughtful dark brown eyes. He had a look of wariness, which could change when he felt relaxed or happy, which was not often in these difficult days, into a smile of amused friendliness and pleasure which aroused feelings of warmth, and something more, in many women. He was generally unaware of these feelings, since he paid little attention to what people thought about him, which was part of his attraction. Val called him Mole, which he disliked. He had never told her so.
Why the extensive changes? You’ll have to hop on over to LanguageHat to find out.