Heartbreaking, mesmerising, dark …these are just some of the words I could use to describe “Mrs.Poe” by Lynn Cullen.
Lynn Cullen has used her research into Edgar Allan Poe’s life and work and her study of the poetry of Frances Osgood, to develop a novel full of passion and obsession. Although some Poe scholars believe that there never was a love affair between Poe and Osgood, the author of this work of fiction has used their poetry, letters and recorded events to create a plausible unfolding of events.
On meeting Poe, Frances Osgood was drawn to him, despite being married and the mother of two children. Her artist husband was a philanderer of the highest order, but Frances attempted to dampen her rising passion.
However, Poe, described as “sexual catnip to the ladies in his time”, persisted in his pursuit of Frances; this, despite the fact that he too was married. His wife, Virginia, was his cousin and was over ten years his junior. In a short space of time, the relationships between the Poes, the Osgoods and the rest of New York “high society” became a tangled mess of passion, jealousy, guilt and fear.
The author has vividly portrayed life in New York in the 1840s.It was interesting to read how the land was cleared in order to build the city; how the weather could have such an effect on people’s lives and how snobbish society was. Women’s lives were certainly not their own; if they were married, if they were single – they all knew that they lived in a patriarchal society. If they stepped out of line, they would be ignored, at the very least.
I think that Lynn Cullen also portrayed her characters in a way which brought them alive, for me, at least. She skilfully gave Frances Osgood’s voice an authentic 19th century tone, which reminded me of some of the novels I have read from that time period. Poe and Osgood are beautifully realised. There are very few characters that I have disliked as much as the Reverend Rufus Griswold, whose hatred towards Poe seemed boundless. Mrs. Virginia Poe and her mother, Maria Clemm, also held a grim fascination for me.
I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in Edgar Allan Poe, his life and work. I have to admit, however, that I have not yet read any of his stories or poetry, but now feel inspired to do so.
I would like to thank NetGalley for the opportunity to read this for free, in return for my honest review.