Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

I enjoyed this book, but I had expected it to be more dark and creepy.  It being a story about Edgar Allan Poe, I thought it to be more along the lines of his stories.  One description of he book claims it’s a story of sexual obsession, but I didn’t get that impression from reading the story.  I think of obsessed as being out of control, risking everything, and the characters in this story didn’t behave that way.  In fact, they seemed incredibly in control of their feelings and actions.

Poe, who is married, falls in love with Frances Osgood, a married woman.  Her husband has abandoned her and her children, but in order to protect her reputation, she must still behave like a married woman.  We find out that Poe has a very unhappy marriage.  His wife is described as a child bride, but at this point in the story, they’ve been married ten years and she’s 23 years old, not at all a child, but still behaves much like one.  Also, she’s very sickly. 

For most of the book, we are aware of the attraction between Poe and Frances, but they don’t act on it.  They walk together in the cold a lot, they touch hands sometimes, there are a few kisses, they write some poems to each other that create quite a scandal, but for the most part, they behave themselves.  They have one weekend together, but that’s near the end, after they’ve wanted each other for a long time.

What I suspect was supposed to be the big, dark revelation at the end was a bit anti-climatic.  Not what I was expecting at all, but not that shocking.  It all happened within the last few pages of the story.  However, I’m not going to give it away, in case you want to read the book for yourself.  Like I said, it is a surprise, but not exactly earth-shattering.

This is a well-written story.  I very much liked the setting of Old New York City and all the characters – well known writers and artists – that filled the pages.  The author clearly did her research.  I’m not sure I agree with some of her conclusions, but it did make for an interesting read. 

I liked the book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Edgar Allan Poe’s life.  But I remain a little bit disappointed that it wasn’t quite the dark, dreary rainy day read I was hoping for yesterday.  I guess I should stick with Poe’s work for that.       

I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Expected release date:  October 1, 2013