Sunday, March 23, 2014
Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
Lynn Cullen is coming to Ohio State to speak this May, so a co-worker suggested that I read Mrs. Poe. It is well outside my normal comfort zone, but I decided to tackle this piece of historical fiction.
I really didn't know much about the life of Edgar Allan Poe, besides The Raven and a few of his other works I may have read in high school, prior to reading Mrs. Poe. His father left when he was around two and his mother died about a year later. He went to live with a wealthy family, who sent him to various boarding schools and provided little to no financial or emotional support as he was growing up. As a result, he was poor and lacked confidence. He ended up marrying his 13 year old first cousin when he was 23 years old. The book implied that she was actually the more mature of the two at the time.
As his popularity and success increased, his finances didn't appear to improve substantially. He did, however, connect with another poet much closer to his age. It is believed that a relationship between the two developed.
This story is told from the perspective of Mrs. Osgood, the "other woman" in Mr. Poe's life. They had many of the same friends and attended the same literary functions, which brought them into contact with one another rather frequently. Mrs. Poe even took an interest in Mrs. Osgood's writing and they developed a very awkward relationship.
Lynn does a remarkable job of incorporating 1800's terminology and culture into this page turning romance. After only a few chapters, I couldn't put this book down. I would let myself read 1 more chapter...then another...until it was well past my bed time a few consecutive nights in a row. The story paints a brighter picture of Poe's life than I believe was actually the case, but that is the benefit of fiction. Overall, it was a very entertaining story that I would recommend to any fan of historical fiction.
After reading Mrs. Poe, I am eager to hear Lynn Cullen speak. I will be sure to post an update with any comments she has on the book, her inspiration, etc.