Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mrs. Poe - Review by AmberBug

Mrs. Poe
Lynn Cullen

First Sentence

"When given bad news, most women of my station can afford to slump into their divans, their china cups slipping from their fingers to the carpet, their hair falling prettily from its pins, their fourteen starched petticoats compacting with a plush crunch."

Publisher's Description:
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. 

 It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve. 

 She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married. 

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late... 

Set amidst the fascinating world of New York’s literati, this smart and sexy novel offers a unique view into the life of one of history’s most unforgettable literary figures. (Published 2013)

Dear Reader,

I absolutely loved everything about this book, starting with the literary references right down to the forbidden romance. Cullen took all the pieces, fact and rumors, about Edgar Allen Poe and the characters around him and wrote a beautiful story that delves into feminism, technological progress, NYC literary society, and so much more. Right away Cullen gives us the setting perfectly, telling us of the NYC smells as horse manure, garbage and urine. This gives us a picture of what NYC was, pushing us into the past. I love when historical fiction adds quaint and factual details such as this.

The characters, based on real life, are strong, opinionated and made me want to jump into a time machine to attend one of their conversaziones. Frances Osgood, the struggling poet that has chosen the wrong man to marry and struggles with this throughout the book. Samuel Osgood, the husband of Frances, who is the master charmer portrait artist, one we would call a player in our time. Virginia Poe, the wife of Edgar Poe, sick and fragile but has a dark side. Edgar Allen Poe, the famous poet/writer, creepy yet extremely intelligent and charming (in his own way).

Cullen wrote Edgar with finesse, he comes across with dry humor which he even admits, "I do not joke... I never joke". That spoke to me because I'm a believer that the truth is what makes something so funny. As Dane Cook (I believe it was him) says, "It's funny because it's so true". Poe's personality is so dark with macabre retorts that had me enamored, I think I fell in love with him right along with Frances.

One of my other favorite characters was Mrs. Fuller, even if she was only a minor part. She loves stirring the pot, has definitive views on feminism and is fantastic at defending her fellow females. Feminism plays a large part in this book, the idea of "free love" is brought up a few times and the conversations that play out around that theme are really interesting. One of the central ideas to "free love" is how "marital relations without the consent of the wife amount to rape." How complicated things were back then, suffocating in a marriage that wasn't right. The inequality of it all, something that is really hard to fathom in present times. The Author actually uses the doomed love of Edgar and Frances to show the injustice of the way things used to be. Shouldn't we be able to be with the one you love? Even now, with such changes in marriage, we suffer with the ideas of adultery and bad relationships. Should you stay with someone out of loyalty even if it means we'd be miserable? Doesn't that just make the person we're with suffer just as much if not more? A great quote from the book sums this up beautifully, "Why must women always deny their desires? Why must most men always deny theirs? It is completely unnatural to do so."

This book might seem like a romance, but to me it was so much more. I'd normally run for the hills at the first mushy paragraph... However, this book spoke to my geeky side. Mrs. Poe is chock full of technological progress, like having a fun history lesson; how roads started, NYC indoor plumbing bringing the rats, daguerreotypes, the first x-mas trees, etc. I really loved the argument brought up around daguerreotypes(develops a portrait by exposing chemicals to light.. Ahem, photography anyone?) this brought up the argument of Fine Art vs. Photography, which interested me quite a bit, being an artist myself. Samuel Osgood, the artist, believed that daguerreotypes were a fad that would pass with time. Poe, on the other hand, felt it was a fantastic technology that was truest to the subject. How I would have likes to be a part of these discussions.

I really would recommend this book to anyone who loves literature combined with history. Cullen gives us so many literary figures (mentioned or cameo); Walt Whitman, Mr. Audobon, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, even Charles Dickens. It left me star struck and wanting more. I can't wait to pick up another of her books, it left me wanting more.

Happy Reading,

P.S. - Check out Arianna's review of this book... Lynn Cullen commented on her post commending her for understanding where she was coming from, you have to read it!


  1. GREAT review! I think between the two of us we really covered the book, and it was so cool to see your take on it, too!! I can't wait to share more books like this. :)

    1. I agree, between us both we hit everything. Cotter read them and he said he could tell we each have our own voice. I was worried it would be influenced by your review but I think we both bring our own take. I'm so lucky to be able to share this blog with you, takes reading to the next level.

  2. I'd say that you two covered the book quite well! Your points would make for a great book club discussion. Thank you very much for giving Mrs. Poe your in-depth thought.

    Please let me know if you have any questions. It warms my heart to have two such insightful readers!

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read both our reviews. I think I speak for both of us when I say we feel honored that you've reached out, you've made me a fan! I can't wait to see the hype and acclaim once Mrs. Poe becomes open to the public. I wish you all the success!


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