Review: Mrs. Poe

October 1, 2013 Whitney Review 2 Comments

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Mrs. PoeMrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
Published by Gallery on October 1, 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley

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.

I went into Mrs. Poe knowing very little of Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.  I read The Raven in high school, but like most class literature, it was required, a chore, and thus other than a nice poem it was a blip in my high school career.

Having said that, I read Lynn Cullen’s Mrs. Poe the week leading up to my brother’s wedding.  It was the worst time possible to begin this novel as I had difficulty putting it down.  I would sneak into  the 1800s as often as I could, even if it was only for a moment or two.

In those fleeting moments, I would fall into Old New York with descriptions that made me feel as if I were there, rather than surrounded by flowers and ribbon.

While reading Mrs. Poe I was reminded of the 1939 Wizard of Oz.  Not for its yellow brick road but its transformation from black and white to color in the blink of an eye.  Whenever Frances Osgood entered the Poe residence the colors would fade with the subdue atmosphere, with air you could cut through with a knife.  Although, just as Dorothy steps through the door into Munchkinland I breathed a little and took in the change of scenery as we walked out of the dreary home.

As for its characters, I expected to find all of them despicable and loathsome.  Yes at times Edgar and his lover Frances were unlikable, how could they not with their infidelity?  Although, I was just as weary with Mrs. Poe and her mother. Despite her frail nature, there was something a little off, itching to be discovered.

The Gothic feel to Mrs. Poe was wonderfully paced and I was left rapt with attention.  My heart palpitated with the novel’s conclusion with an ending I would never have fathomed.


2 responses to “Review: Mrs. Poe

  1. I was really excited about reading this too but Ms. Cullen took SO many liberties with the historical facts around Mr. Poe and Mrs. Osgood that it turned me off. I loved her writing style and I obsessively read this book but in the end I think I would have liked it better if she had stayed a little closer to the truth about their friendship.
    Ashley (Closed the Cover)

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