Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
Published by: Gallery Books
Published on: October 1, 2013
Page Count: 336
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery
My Reading Format: ARC provided by Netgalley
Available Formats: Hardcover, Kindle and Audible editions

My Review:

I have to confess I haven't read much Poe. I have the general feel of how his writing is and know some of his biographical highlights. I'd heard that he married his much younger cousin, so it intrigued me when I came across this historical fiction book about a love triangle (or square really) involving Edgar Allan Poe.

The narrator is Poe's "other" woman, the narrator Frances Osgood, herself a writer, and the whole book is written from her perspective. Instead of getting the wife's side of the story, we hear of Poe's dark moods and flighty, sickly wife from Frances' perspective, which really made the book interesting.

Frances has been abandoned by her husband Samuel and is struggling to make a living as a writer to support their two daughters. The three have moved in with friends the Bartletts at their New York City home. Poe's reputation, of course, has preceded him, and Frances is intrigued by him even before they meet. What begins as friendly conversations between two writers turns into an attraction that Frances and Poe seem to have no control over. Frances' path keeps crossing with Poe's and they are soon trying hard to hide the undeniable chemistry between them. In the same circle of friends, many of whom are writers and artists, the two keep attending the same parties. Before long Poe is leaving his wife and mother-in-law at home regularly to meet Frances at friends' gatherings.

John and Eliza Bartlett support Frances in her writing but disapprove of her relationship with Poe. This is all complicated by the fact that Poe is married to a cousin ten years his junior who is frail and sickly, but desires a friendship with Frances, and John Bartlett and Poe have a professional relationship. As Frances and Poe fall more deeply in love with each other, Poe's wife Virginia is growing increasingly ill but still demands Frances' friendship, even when she appears to have caught on to her husband's relationship. 
There is an abrupt resolution to the storyline, something that was a big jarring to me as a reader. While I realize this sort of thing happens in mysteries, the story got resolved much quicker and neater than I anticipated. There were, however, a couple things that I didn't see coming, and I enjoyed the surprise.   

Besides the creepy feeling (in a good way!) some of the characters gave me, my other favorite part of this book was the narrator's point of view. I haven't read too many books where the narrator is the "other" woman. I loved seeing her side of things as she grew increasingly powerless to resist Poe's charms and tried to maintain a friendship with Poe's wife Virginia. It was such a strange balance to strike that I couldn't put the book down. 

Four out of five stars

If you liked Mrs. Poe, you’ll like Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, and Z by Therese Anne Fowler (but all of these are from the wife's perspective).

1 comment:

  1. This sounds interesting to me. I haven't read The Paris Wife, but I loved the other two you mention as being similar. But when is someone going to write a novel about a writer's husband?