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Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Savour every word, 12 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds (Hardcover)
The quality of the research and writing in this luminous biography is superb - but when you open a book by Lyndall Gordon you are also sure of a work that is uniquely writerly. Gordon tracks her subjects through the intricacies of their relationships with Emily Dickinson, exposing their dreams, deliriums, passions and agendas with consummate skill.

It's a page-turner. I could not put it down and yet counselled myself to read more slowly so as to savour Gordon's insights and style. Wit and human sympathy keep company in these pages: Gordon's characterisation is powerful. She has the novelist's knack of showing her people extemporising their lives. This novelistic gift is earthed by meticulous fair-mindedness. Austin and Susan Dickinson and Mabel Todd are scintillatingly present; much of the narrative takes place after Emily Dickinson's death but somehow we feel the poet all the more as a haunting presence in the aftermath of her death, as the competing family attempts to seize and possess her ghost, often to tragicomic effect.

In the end Emily Dickinson preserves her mystery, as does her poetry. What Lyndall Gordon gives us is a sense of her compelling reality, as if a candle had only just been blown out in a dark room - so that we retain a pregnant and exact after-image. I have read all Gordon's biographies so far and impatiently await the next one.
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