Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Pages:
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: October 1, 2013
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."
It's 1854 in New York City and daguerreotypes, poetry, and literature are all the rage. Frances Osgood is a poet, but she hasn't recently written anything for adults that is noteworthy as she is best known for her children's stories.  She finds herself in the center of New York literati after she captures Edgar Allan Poe's eye.  Poe is currently the center of New York literati after writing "The Raven," which has won over the entire city.  Frances, or Fanny, isn't a single gal though; unfortunately, she is married to Samuel Osgood, a philandering artist, whom has left her and their two children to fend for themselves.  Thankfully, a family friend, the Bartletts, have taken them in and Fanny hopes to start writing again in order to support herself and her daughters.  She can't stop thinking about Poe though and their recent meeting at a literary party; there's no denying that they made an instant connection.  Poe's very young wife, Virginia, is a fan of Fanny's work and wants to spent more time with her, which essentially, makes things a bit more awkward for all involved. The three of them forge an unhealthy relationship and Fanny can't help but question if Mrs. Poe is as innocent as she looks and what should she do about her undeniable feelings for the famous Edgar Allan Poe?  Lynn Cullen's take on Edgar Allan Poe is simply brilliant and Mrs. Poe ended up being one of my favorite adult novels of the year.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that Frances Osgood is actually a real person, whom many argue had an affair with Poe.  I had researched Poe before, but had never come across this delicious tidbit of information and it made the story that much more compelling.  I loved the character of Fanny and although I became frustrated with her when she had her bouts of writer's block (thanks to her preoccupation with Poe), I liked her and respected the fact that she was trying to make a living on her own.  In Mrs. Poe, Fanny's husband is a real scoundrel and took up with various females that he painted, so I didn't feel badly in the least when Fanny started to show an interest in Poe.

Which leads me to Poe.....I have always been the biggest fan of his stories and his poetry. One of my favorite lessons to teach is Poe's "Lenore" and "The Tell-Tale Heart." I love that children (and even adults!) are still fascinated with him up to this day.  He has kind of gotten a bad reputation in the past, which this story addresses in the author's note, and I like that Mrs. Poe focuses on another side of Poe that I didn't initially recognize---the side where women swooned over him and he was delightfully charming.  In Mrs. Poe, he's portrayed as mysterious, intelligent, well-mannered, good looking, and so much more than that creepy guy who wrote "The Raven" and married his 13-year old cousin.  His life's story is such a sad one and I liked getting a glimpse into his happy times, even if it was brief.

Mrs. Poe also obviously focuses on Virginia, his wife, who annoyed me beyond belief along with her doting mother.  Cullen portrays Virginia as a goofy, manipulative, and immature female as well as a chronically sick girl. I did feel badly for her from time to time. I never really knew too much about Virginia and Cullen does a fantastic job bringing her to life.

There are other characters in the literati circle that are just as compelling, especially the overbearing editor, Griswold.  He was always in Fanny's business and his hatred for Poe was palpable. I loved learning more about his motives in the "Author's Note" as he was a character that I often questioned and definitely didn't trust.  Also, Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, and other literary sensations made appearances at these literary parties, which I loved. As a fan of all history and literature, it was so much fun to be lost in the world of Mrs. Poe.  

If you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or simply wanted to learn a little bit more about this mysterious writer, then I urge you to read Mrs Poe by Lynn Cullen. I loved her take on the famous author as well as Frances Osgood.  I was desperately hoping these two would have a happy ending, but sadly enough, we all know how things end up for Poe and knowing this in the back of my mind as I was reading only added to the tragically beautiful story of Edgar and Fanny.


8 comments:

  1. Ever since I started to watch The Following, I've had a thing for Poe. The mysterious nature is so very eerie, and I'm completely intrigued by it all. I guess I'll have to read this one! Wonderful review, Christina! :)

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    1. Ohh...maybe I should check out The Following...Thanks for checking out my review, Melissa!

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  2. He married his 13 year old cousin? I had no idea. I know nothing about him other than he wrote very disturbing stories (I'm still traumatized by the Tell-Tale Heart Christina. STILL), so I think I would find this book fascinating. I love that it portrays him in a different light than other books and we get to see a side of him he's not really known for. Fantastic review!!!

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    1. Haha. Surprisingly, I LOVE The Tell-Tale heart! Thanks for visiting, Jenny!

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  3. I'm a big Poe fan as well so I'm really looking forward to reading this. Sounds like the perfect thing to read around Halloween :)

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    1. It was the absolute PERFECT time to read this story. Since you are a fan of Poe, I hope you can get your hands on a copy. Thanks for visting, Christa!

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  4. I like the sound of this one. I'm a fan of everything Poe! :) (Although I admit I'm not familiar with Osgood either!)

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    1. Me too! I wasn't familiar with her at all, but I am glad that I read this book and got to learn more about her. Thanks for visiting, Leanna!

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