Thursday, December 12, 2013
Book Thoughts - Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
Synopsis from publisher -
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...
My thoughts -
This book was somewhat frustrating for me. I thought the premise was quite interesting, and since I enjoy Poe's work very much, I was excited to gain a bit more insight into his life. His relationship with his much younger wife has always been a bit of a mystery, and I have to admit a fascination with the mind behind the stories.
I understand this is a work of fiction, based on a supposition at best, but I had a very hard time believing Cullen's vision of Poe. Honestly, I had a hard time believing in either of the main characters - I didn't ever feel like I truly understood the motivation behind the increasingly dangerous choices they were making. Their relationship didn't really make sense, and Cullen often had her characters using what felt like 21st century opinions to justify the actions of Poe and Frances.
The character that felt the most true to me was Virginia Poe, who was clearly supposed to be crazy. Her desperation and fear seemed a logical reaction to the situations around her, and she was the one I had the most sympathy for. Poe and Frances came to seem somewhat petulant, and I had a hard time rooting for their relationship.
Despite this, I did find myself continuing on with the story. I think Cullen is actually a good writer, who just didn't quite find the best subject for her work. Her descriptions of person and place were evocative, and I enjoyed the actual reading of the novel.
While it wasn't what I had hoped it would be, Mrs. Poe did keep me interested enough to finish the novel. I would be interested to read more work by the author, because I think she has potential greater than what was realized in this work.
Finished - 11/29/13
Source - review copy from publisher via Netgalley - thank you!
MPAA rating - PG-13 for some adult themes
My rating - 6/10