Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Review: Mrs. Poe

Mrs. PoeAuthor: Lynn Cullen
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Gallery

A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife.

It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.

She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late...

Set amidst the fascinating world of New York’s literati, this smart and sexy novel offers a unique view into the life of one of history’s most unforgettable literary figures.

But my husband had run off, and even if I did sue him for divorce, it would do me no good – he had no money to support me. I was in no position to turn up my nose at Mr. Edgar A. Poe and the recognition his backing might give me. Surely no harm could come from that.

“Tell him, please, that I admire his poem greatly.”

I unfolded the paper. It opened to a copy of ‘The Raven.’ The hair raised on my arms.

Miss Fuller gave me a conspiratorial smile. “Last chance to come clean about Mr. Poe.”

This is the story not of Edgar Allan Poe’s wife, but of his alleged affair with Francis Osgood, another writer of poetry. Lynn Cullen has an incredible eye for detail and mastery of beautiful imagery and language throughout this book. This was the first book that I have ever read by her, and was excited to add a new author to my always growing list. As and eleventh grade English teacher, junior year being the time that we cover American literature, you can probably figure that Poe is at the top of my list. Anything written by him or about him will sit on my bookshelf. I was anxious to read a copy of this book, and was not the least bit disappointed.

This book covers so much than the relationship between Frances and Poe, but also cover a significant amount of history and allows readers to immerse themselves in this vintage New York that Cullen has written, and written wonderfully I might add. We see a bit of literature, cultures, and social customs of the times which is always a nice when reading historical fiction. I like to have a nice exposition laid out before me before diving into a different time period. One of my favorite parts of this book was getting to the end and realizing there was an author’s note. It is very informative and adds a few more interesting details, especially for big Poe fans! This was definitely a nice touch that I was not expecting.

A lot of this book is based on fact and Lynn Cullen’s extensive research on Poe, Virginia (his wife), and Frances. I was intrigued by the fact that Virginia actually encouraged their relationship and invited Frances to their home on several occasions. I have completed enough research to know that many Poe scholars think that the affair did not happen, but with some of the evidence provided in stories like this, from real historians who have done their research, it just cannot be denied. This story was an inspiring one in the fact that it made me want to continue research and learn more about each of these individuals.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Gallery Books in exchange for my honest review***

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