A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife.
My take: 4 looks
I was initially disappointed in this one, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I enjoyed it.
To get my initial thorn out of the way: I wanted the main character, Fanny Osgood, to be more Scarlett O’Hara and less Melanie Wilkes. Once, in a scene involving Fanny, at the height of decorum, I thought of the quote by Scarlett about Melanie, “…silly little fool who can’t open her mouth except to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and raise a passel of mealy-mouthed brats just like her.”
However, I realize after reflecting on the story, characters, and writing that I was completely wrong. Fanny is acting exactly how she was raised, to be respectful, kind, and acquiescing. The fact that Virginia is emboldened in both word and deed is eventually explained by Poe by explaining that she stayed as a child.
The tension between Poe and Fanny was evident, as was Virginia’s increasing awareness of their relationship. While I admit that I did want Fanny to be a little more free to allow herself these illicit feelings, the time and culture did not permit that she act on her feelings. Her concern for Virginia was yet another testament to her character.
And speaking of characters! What a wonderfully colorful collection of REAL historical figures in this story! When historical fiction drives a reader to do more reading and research, there is no greater compliment to an author. I loved reading about Griswold’s penchant for hand adornments, Fuller’s growing friendship and trust with Fanny, Bartlett’s interest in Southern colloquialisms, and Ellet’s drive to ruin anyone who wronged her.
The fact that these were real people has driven me straight to historical references to learn more.
All-in-all, when my friend Kerri recommended this book to me, she did me a favor!