Review: Mrs. Poe ~ Lynn Cullen

Mrs PoeA 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.

2 Thumbs-UpI have been a huge lover of the works of Edgar Allen Poe for as long as I can remember, so when I saw the title to this novel, and read the synopsis I was expecting something new and fresh to be revealed in the life of Poe.  I was to be sorely disappointed.

Most the characters that appear in this novel are well-known names from the world of American literature in the first half of the 19th century so little, if any background development was required for them; nor did it seem at some points in the novel was there a need to explain their presence in certain scenes. There were so many of these ‘names’ in the book that it also began to read like a ‘who’s who’ of the literati world; there is name-dropping and then there is this novel, which goes well over the line of what is appropriate in this area.

Apart from the issue I have just mentioned, there were also a few more parts of the ‘character’ placement and writing in this book that I didn’t like.  There were several who appeared in the book that had an active role in Poe’s life, whose actions and personalities were so distorted by this Author that, without historical evidence, it would have been hard to believe they had lived at all; as a complete opposite to this there were other characters that the Author chose to write as closely as possible to their historic representations.  Why they chose to do this for one set of characters and not for another, I couldn’t understand.

In all my readings about Poe, his life and his works I have never come across any that painted him as a sex magnet.  This Author does so in this book, not only in the way she writes about him but also through the impression that the words leave on the readers mind long after the book has been put down.  If, as a reader, you know nothing at all about Poe and his life, this would leave you with a much skewed opinion of what the man was like.  Like all others of his ilk mentioned in the book he was a complex and creative character, none of which manages to make its way into the pages of this read.

Unfortunately, I am unable to recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, as I feel you may be misled by the contents.