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Mrs. Poe Paperback – 1 Apr 2014
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"Cullen creates a delicious sense of suspense and impending doom; antebellum Manhattan and the ruling literati cast an irresistible spell."--Atlanta Magazine
"Part romance, part mystery, part biography, this fictional reenactment of the mistress of Edgar Allan Poe escorts you into the glittering world of New York in the 1840s, when poets were celebrities and the admission of emotions--like silk gowns and glossy beaver hats--were a luxury...A bewitching, vivid trip into the heyday of American literary society."--Oprah.com
"Clearly composed and carefully researched the book's vivid prose accentuates the passion, jealousy and hatred that evolve from a tangled three-way relationship that could easily have come straight from the pages of Poe's stories. A must-read for those intrigued by Poe, poetry and the latter half of 19th-century America."--RT Book Reviews (four stars)
"Taking advantage of letters and published poems, imaginative historical novelist Cullen cleverly spins a mysterious, dark tale told by Mrs. Osgood about the long-ago intrigue, with just enough facts to make it believable."--Booklist
"At once beautiful and heartbreaking, Lynn Cullen has woven together a tapestry of fact and rumor to give us an intimate view into the forbidden love between two complicated, creative lives. Historical fictions fans, you're in for a treat."--Susan Crandall, bestselling author of Whistling Past the Graveyard
"Mrs. Poe is a compelling tale of ill-fated love, passion, and the writing life in antebellum New York, rich with period detail and suspense."--Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
"Layered with the atmosphere and intensity of Poe's prose, Cullen's Mrs. Poe infuses a tale of tragedy and loss with a spirit of passion and vitality. Fans of historical fiction and Poe will devour this novel."--Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Call Me Zelda
"Mrs. Poe is an entertaining tale with interesting characters, a vibrant locale, a good dose of romance, and even some intrigue, which is what an historical novel should be."--The Copperfield Review
"Mrs. Poe is such a compelling novel, bringing history to vivid life. Danger, sensuality, mystery and passion fill the pages of this bewitching story set in the crowded cobbled streets, alleyways, cheap boardinghouses and literary gatherings of mid-nineteenth century New York City. Everyone warns the lovely, near penniless poet Mrs. Osgood, a deserted wife with two young children, to stay away from the dark-eyed writer Edgar Allen Poe who has fallen in love with her. She writes tender verses; he creates blood-curdling tales but he is darker than his writing, carrying secrets of his frail much younger wife and his heinous past. Even when Mrs. Osgood understands that someone is trying to kill her because of him, she cannot put aside her passion until it is almost too late."--Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille
"When struggling poet and betrayed wife Frances Osgood meets Edgar Allen Poe, she is hoping only for a boost in her literary career--certainly not what came next. Swept into an illicit love affair with the complicated, magnetic, and married Poe, Osgood and Poe must together face the consequences, which are no less horrific or revenge-filled than his best loved horror stories--and quite possibly as deadly. Mrs. Poe had my heart racing...Don't miss it!"--Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants and Ape House
About the Author
Lynn Cullen grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana and is the bestselling author of Twain's End and Mrs. Poe, which was named a Target Book Club Pick, an NPR 2013 Great Read, and an Indie Next List selection. She lives in Atlanta surrounded by her large family, and, like both Poe and Mark Twain, enjoys being bossed around by cats.
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1845 New York. Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven has just been published and it is a hit with both the literary set and the man on the street. Frances (Fanny) Osgood is also a poet, struggling to support her daughters after being abandoned by her philandering husband. She has found minor success with her children's poetry (Puss in Boots), flower and love poems. But an editor encourages to write something that he can sell - something shivery for the ladies.
"You'd like me to be a sort of Mrs. Poe? Ha! Yes.That's the ticket."
And somewhat prophetic. For Fanny does meet Poe - and there are immediate feelings of attraction between them.
"I knew that I should dislike the man, should fear him, should keep my distance at all costs. I knew that I would not." The real Mrs. Poe takes a liking to Fanny as well. Or is she simply keeping a rival close to hand?
Taking on actual historical figures as the main characters in a novel is a delicate dance. Of course, there has been much written about Poe. Cullen shows us a man who has achieved notoriety, but struggles with accepting and embracing it. His struggles with his personal life are no less challenging - alcohol, finances and of course the health of the real Mrs Poe. Poe married his thirteen year old first cousin, Virginia, when he was twenty three. Virginia's mother and Poe's aunt Mrs. Clemm, lives with them. I liked Fanny right from the first pages - she's ambitious, pragmatic, curious and intelligent. As the book progresses, we see her romantic side take the upper hand as she follows her heart, ignoring the whispers of society. Virginia Poe is bit of an enigma. Cullen chooses to reveal her through actions and dialogue. The supporting cast was wonderful as well, again incorporating many historical figures. I was particularly drawn to Eliza Bartlett and her warmth, as well as Sarah Fuller and her early women's rights activism.
Cullen's language and dialogue was wonderful, capturing the time period and social mores. The dancing within words was such fun to read - barbs couched in acceptable form, underlying meanings just below the surface and more. Her descriptions of the settings were vivid, bringing 1845 New York to life.
The literary references were fun - Clement Moore despairs that he will only be remembered for "his children's poem A Visit From St. Nicholas and not for his professorship in Oriental languages at the college that he founded." The discussions held at Anne Lynch's "conversaziones," were fascinating. I learned so much from this novel - I stopped reading many times to head for the net, to follow up on a reference or character.
The romance between Poe and Fanny builds slowly but inexorably, leading down dangerous paths. The actual facts point to a true affection between these two historical figures. Poe's poem, A Valentine, was written for Frances Osgood. Cullen takes literary license and imagines an alternate journey and ending for Edgar, Frances......and let's not forget Virginia.
Cullen comes up with her own twist on things and surprised me in the last few chapters. Mrs. Poe is definitely recommended reading.
Being a fan of the works of Poe, I was intrigued by the opening chapters of the book. Approximately midway through the tale I became slightly disenchanted when continually confronted with the over the top, impetuous and rather school-girlish personality of the gushing Francis Osgood. Her description of the magnetic, irresistible, dangerous, dark-eyed Poe are not borne out by pictures taken by Matthew Brady and others that depict Poe as a rather haggard looking wisp of a man whose eyes sport puffy bags and who appears to be suffering from lazy eye syndrome. Also, based upon her statements early in the narrative, Osgood appeared to be just another opportunist seeking to better her career in writing by cultivating the support of the acerbic Mr. Poe. Her ultimate reaction to the man, as well as that of several other women in the story, had to be based upon his intellect and not his looks - - - - or perhaps with all the filth and disease killing off the supply of prospects available he was among the best to be found.
The narrative is liberally peppered with the names of the literati of the day ranging from Margaret Fuller and Horace Greeley to Whitman, Emerson and Longfellow. The picture painted of Poe's wife and first cousin, Virginia seems to vacillate between sweet school-girl, riddled with consumption encouraging Osgood to befriend her husband to the jealous vindictive wife with a "no trespassing" sign firmly planted on her spouse. Virginia's mother Mrs. Marie Clemm, who appears to be the mother Poe never really had, does not fare well in this telling. Finally, we have the Reverend Rufus Griswold, a thoroughly abrasive piece of work whose pious arrogance and public rivalry with Poe easily make him an easy target for antipathy.
Mrs. Poe presents the reader with a world where marriage is seen as a business arrangement and where love matches are rare. All is politeness and refinement in the drawing rooms, but secret lives and deadly gossip lies hidden behind closed doors. Peopled with characters both noble and flawed what unfolds is a tale culled from fact and liberally embellished with fiction.
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