Book Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Mrs. Poe is so much more than a historical fiction novel. It includes romance, history, literature and nineteenth century technological progress as well. Mrs. Poe focuses on two women who influenced Poe’s life – Virginia Clemm, his wife, and Frances Osgood, his mistress. Evidence from their poetry suggests that Poe may have had an affair with Frances Sargent Osgood. This well researched novel imagines what might have happened between them.

The setting takes place after Poe achieves great acclaim for his publication of his famous poem, “The Raven”. Virginia and Frances’ characterizations are in sharp contrast to Poe’s distant, mysterious personality. As in Poe’s writings, there is an emphasis of the character’s dark sides. A subtle hint of sinistry pervades throughout the novel, without becoming too morose. The culture of phrenology, passenger pigeons and “conversazione” gatherings is woven into the story. Many scenes include literary figures such as Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charles Dickens. Cullen’s lyrical prose describing the complicated love triangle made it a pleasurable read. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in Victorian historical novels and literature.


** An ARC was provided from Netgalley for the purpose of an honest and review of the novel.

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