Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Back Cover Blurb

A writer and his demons. A woman and her desires. A wife and her revenge 

Inspired by literature’s most haunting love triangle, award-winning author Lynn Cullen delivers a pitch-perfect rendering of Edgar Allan Poe, his mistress’s tantalizing confession, and his wife’s frightening obsession . . . in this “intelligent, sexy, and utterly addictive” (M. J. Rose) new masterpiece of historical fiction.

1845: New York City is a sprawling warren of gaslit streets and crowded avenues, bustling with new immigrants and old money, optimism and opportunity, poverty and crime. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is all the rage—the success of which a struggling poet like Frances Osgood can only dream. As a mother trying to support two young children after her husband’s cruel betrayal, Frances jumps at the chance to meet the illustrious Mr. Poe at a small literary gathering, if only to help her fledgling career. Although not a great fan of Poe’s writing, she is nonetheless overwhelmed by his magnetic presence— and the surprising revelation that he admires her work.

What follows is a flirtation, then a seduction, then an illicit affair . . . and with each clandestine encounter, Frances finds herself falling slowly and inexorably under the spell of her mysterious, complicated lover. But when Edgar’s frail wife Virginia insists on befriending Frances as well, the relationship becomes as dark and twisted as one of Poe’s tales. And like those gothic heroines whose fates are forever sealed, Frances begins to fear that deceiving Mrs. Poe may be as impossible as cheating death itself. . . .

My Review

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen is a beautifully rendered story about the two women, Virginia Clemm (wife) and Frances Osgood (mistress) who each deeply influenced Edgar Allan Poe's life. In this biographical historical fiction novel, the author paints a story of deep passionate love, betrayal, duty, and jealousy. Although the novel is entitled Mrs. Poe, I found the stronger focus on Frances rather than Virginia in the story. Both women were well characterized: Virigina weak and sickly, but staunch in her love for her husband, even to the point of bitter jealousy, and Frances who walked a fine line between her broken marriage, the tensely awkward friendship with Virginia, and her passion for Edgar Allan Poe. I liked the women's vastly different personalities - it really added interest throughout the story. 

What fascinated me was that the author, whether intentional or not, managed to capture the dark side of all the characters, just like Poe himself did in all his writings. Coupled with lyrical prose and a fascinatingly complicated love triangle, the book held my attention from start to finish, giving me an insight into the tumultuous life of not only the characters, but of writers and the struggles they faced. This is an excellent novel, albeit perhaps with the author's strong personal interpretation of the facts. An excellent book for those that love biographical novels about women set in Victorian times. Definitely recommended.

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