Friday, August 01, 2014

413 (2014 #41). Mrs. Poe

written by Lynn Cullen,
read by Eliza Foss

Mrs. Poe really isn't about the wife of poet and author Edgar Allen Poe.  Instead, the main character and narrator of the story is Frances Sargent Osgood, a poet herself, who may or may not have had a relationship with Poe that went beyond the flirtatious exchange of poems printed in the journal Poe edited.

The story begins in the winter of 1845, when Poe is at the height of his fame with the publication of "The Raven" (printed in full to start the book), and concludes two years later.  Osgood's philandering artist husband has left her alone to support herself and their two daughters, and Poe's attention ultimately helps her career.

Interestingly, in an interview, author Lynn Cullen says she was in similar circumstances just before writing this book, as her husband was temporarily debilitated from a bout with encephalitis (a possible cause of Poe's mysterious death) and she was worried about how she would support her family.

Lynn Cullen did a very good job researching her setting - New York City in the mid-1840s - and that aspect of the book is excellent.  What appears to be a lot of name-dropping cameo appearances of other authors and famous people of the day may seem annoying, but it's very likely that Osgood, Poe, and his wife Virginia (a cousin whom he married when he was 26 and she 13, who suffered from tuberculosis) did meet these people in the literary circles in the city.

The author's note at the end was helpful in telling the reader what happened to many of the major characters AFTER the story ended.  However, I would have like a little more clarification on what happened IN the book - what was true, what was not.  For example, according to Lynn Cullen's website, Frances Osgood did live with Eliza and John Russell Bartlett for a while, but I would have liked to have seen that fact in the author's note, as well as more detail on the sources she used in her writing.  The lack of such information means a lot of readers will assume that the events in the story are all true, when they are not.

Actress Eliza Foss "was featured in Audiofile magazine as one of 'audio's hottest romance narrators,'" and she certainly provides a dramatic reading of this book.  She gives Poe a slight Southern accent, fitting in that he grew up in Virginia.

I'm not fond of the romance genre, nor of Gothic horror/mystery, and this book has a little too much of both for my liking.  It is historical fiction, and that redeemed it for me.  Any time a work of historical fiction gets me to want to research the people and places it's about, it's a success.  Just keep in mind as you read it that is IS fiction and not fact.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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