The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran
Paperback, 384 pages
St. Martin’s Griffin
March 15, 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from publisher for review
“Ann More and her four sisters have been brought up in the beautiful country house of Loseley, near Guildford in Surrey, by their grandparents, Sir William and the Lady Margaret More. Their only brother, Robert, lives with his pompous father and shrewish step-mother nearby. But though the sisters are close, it is Ann who is the most unusual in character. Willful, argumentative, challenging and fiery, she is handsome rather than beautiful, and has an indomitable spirit. It is this that endears her to her grandfather, who encourages her learning and lets her loose in his well-stocked library to browse the volumes of Latin and Greek.
Once her favorite sister Bett is married, Ann is sent to live in York House in London, where her uncle is Lord Keeper of the Seal. Ann knows her father is endeavoring to find her a match in marriage, and she is to be presented at the Court of Queen Elizabeth yet the journey past Nonsuch Palace, through Southwark, the city gates spiked with the heads of recent traitors and across the shining river proves unimaginably exciting. Soon, Ann is quite at home at York House, and there, in the company of her young cousin, she meets the poet John Donne, a man older and wiser than her, whose verse and character she just cannot resist.
Rich in period detail, vivid in description and character, THE LADY AND THE POET is an utterly irresistible, compelling historical novel. It is, above all, the passionate story of the love match between one of the most famous poets of all time, and his young bride.”
For some reason, something that I cannot really put my finger on, it took me a long time to decide I was in the mood to read this book. I think that part of it was the fact that I truly had no idea who John Dunne was, besides the fact that he was a poet. Secondly, because I knew he was a poet, and I really don’t like reading poetry, I likely steered away from this because I was intimidated by the possibly of needing to read poetry. If you are like I was, I want to reassure you that you don’t really need to know anything about John Dunne to enjoy this novel, although an appreciation of poetry wouldn’t hurt. There are poems, or portions of poems, sprinkled throughout the novel and if you know any of Dunne’s poetry you will likely find more enjoyment in being able to place the poem historically.
One thing that this novel does very well is evoke the time period and place. Through Haran’s writing, London comes to life where you can almost see, feel, and smell the world around you. You see a little bit of everything from the seedier, back streets of London to the Queen’s chambers of the palace. At no point does the descriptions bog down the writing – the pages fly by!
The characters were well written. Ann More has several sisters and none of the women really felt stereotypical or cookie cutter. There were all a little different and unique, however at the same time they fit the most of women from that time period. One of my favorite scenes was when Ann had her introduction to Queen Elizabeth – and the Queen is in one of her jealous rages. This isn’t a side of Elizabeth that I have seen novelized much – mostly because the Elizabeth that I read of is often in the earlier years of her reign. I very much enjoyed the character of John Dunne – he was a little bit scandalous, sexy, and the man you wouldn’t want your daughter with – but at the same time he really cares so much for Ann. The two of them go to great extents to be able to love and marry and it made for great drama. Quite a touching love story.
Author Maeve Haran also has written another historical fiction novel The Painted Lady. You can visit Haran’s website for additional information about the book.
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