I just finished reading this book a few minutes ago, and raced to my computer to write a review so I could share it with my readers (yes-both of you!) as quickly as possible. I really enjoyed Mrs. Poe, and I’m sure many will not be familiar with it, so I wanted to get the word out right away. Another reason I feel a bit of urgency? We’re inching our way closer to Christmas as the hours tick by, and I think this would be a great gift for that historical fiction lover on your list. I know, I’m so thoughtful!
Lynn Cullen is an American writer who writes historical fiction as well as children’s books. Although I don’t typically pick up this genre, the book interested me because it was based on real people (Edgar Allan Poe being the most obvious). It also included other literary figures of the time, Ralph Waldo Emerson being a good example, and reading about these names that you’re familiar with bring a sort of inclusiveness to the work, so you feel not only proud of yourself for recognizing them, but curious to learn about them as people, rather than writers in history. Similar to my love of reading the acknowledgement sections of books, it’s always fun to look inside the private worlds of the well-known, even if they’ve been dead for hundreds of years. I should also mention that this book takes place around the same time as the recent novel The Dark therefore many famous historical characters play a part in both books, interestingly enough.
Aside from the name-dropping, the plot is deliciously fraught with turmoil. Scorned lovers, breathless meetings in dark alleys, dread-inducing conversations and strange coincidences color the storyline with suspicion. As a reader, you suspect that there is more going on between the lines than you think, and not all loose ends are tied up at the end of the book (which is the way it should be, quite frankly). The main character Frances Osgood (who was also tied up with Poe in real life as well) is a lovable character, a respectable woman who has been wronged by her philandering husband and just trying to make a go of it. Can she be blamed for cheating on her partner with the married Poe? Perhaps, but you feel so damn bad for the woman that it’s hard not to cheer her on at the same time.
So there you have it-does this not sound like a recipe for the best book club pick ever? It would appeal to a wide range of readers and is quick to get through, so even if you hate it (which I doubt you will) it won’t take you too long to read, and you’ll still want to turn the pages to see what happens next.