Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
Unabridged, 12 hr. 1 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio
Eliza Foss (Narrator)
October 1, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from the publisher for review
“New York, 1845. Mr. Poe’s “The Raven” is all the literary rage-the success of which a struggling poet like Frances Osgood can only dream. As a mother trying to support two children after her husband’s betrayal, Frances jumps at the opportunity to meet the mysterious Poe, if only to help her career. Although not a fan of his writing, Frances is overwhelmed by his magnetic presence-and the surprising revelation that he admires her work. What follows is a flirtation, then a seduction, then an illicit love affair. But when Edgar’s frail wife Virginia-a cousin half his age-insists on befriending Frances as well, the relationship becomes as dark and deceiving, as full of twists and turns, as one of Poe’s tales…and maybe, as Frances fears, every bit as deadly.
Closely based on Poe’s life and writings, and rich with authentic historical detail, Mrs. Poe is a novel of romantic obsession as passionate and enduring as its brilliant subject.”
What I expected and what I ultimately got from this novel were two very different experiences. Honestly, I must not have read the book blurb because I was expecting to hear a story of life with the writer/poet from the perspective of Mrs. Virginia Poe – such being the new plot devise in historical fiction of late. However, while we do get some of the home life of Edgar and Virginia Poe, that is not the sole focus – the narrative primarily focuses on Frances Osgood, a burgeoning poet and sometime lover of Mr. Poe.
Through this novel I felt that I came to know Edgar Allan Poe (at least Cullen’s version of him), whereas he has always been a shadowy unknown figure to me. While all of the characters were well written, I was most impressed with the feel of the time period that Cullen evoked here; from the daily average life to craziness that oftentimes surrounded Mr. Poe and company. The only character that I actually became frustrated with, at times, was our narrator Mrs. Osgood; primarily because I found her to be whiny and repetitive at times. The novel was very well plotted and paced. The climax scene was not only intense and terrifying (very Poe-esque), but came complete with a surprise twist that I had not seen coming. Looking back over the story after reading it once through you can see some foreshadowing that could give clues to the surprise twist, but they are things that go completely overlooked when not looking for them.
At the start of the novel there is a whole text reproduction of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. When first listening to this novel I found this to be distracting from the novel. However, as I continued through the novel I found it quite helpful to my understanding. The Raven had such an impact on the times and on the life of Poe, and was referenced amply during the narrative, that it became a boon rather than a burden.
The audio production was top-notch in my opinion. The narrator provided very different, and appropriate, voices for each of the characters: a sort of brooding Poe, sickly Virginia, middle-of-the-road Frances, and a creaky old lady in Virginia’s mother. It was always easy to tell who was doing the talking. The pace of the reading picked up slightly as the plot escalated – which did much to suck me into the narrative. I noticeably appreciated the narration of this novel, whereas that can frequently go unremarked in my listening.
Author Lynn Cullen also has written Reign of Madness, The Creation of Eve, and I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter. You can visit her website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
You can also hear an excerpt from the audio book.
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