Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

16130398Book Description:

The triumphant success of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” compels fledgling poet Frances Osgood to meet her literary idol, a mysterious, complicated man who soon has her under his seductive spell in an all-consuming affair. And when Edgar’s frail young wife breaks into their idyll to befriend her rival, Frances fears that deceiving Mrs. Poe may be as impossible as cheating death itself. . . .


What initially drew me to Mrs. Poe was Edgar Allan Poe, one of my favorite writers, and no doubt, one who has influenced my writing tremendously. Based on the description on the back cover, and the fact that the infamous Mr. Poe is the narrator’s love interest, I was expecting to descend into darkness with this read.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Poe fell flat for me. Although I love Edgar Allan Poe, I am not a fan of historical fiction (unless it’s literary) or romance, and to my detriment, that is exactly what this novel is.

Here’s my problem with the romance and historical fiction genres (bring on the lynch mob). So often with books I’ve read in these genres, there is absolutely no plot whatsoever. In romance, it’s usually some pathetic girl pining after a guy way out of her league who, by some miraculous wave of the cosmos, likes her back, and they go through this back and forth until eventually, they get together. The End. Usually these novels are complete snooze fests until the love interest enters the scene. Yawn. The similar happens with historical fiction. Again, there’s no plot, but this time, it’s because the author is spending the majority of the time trying to convince the reader that this story is history. The author spends pages upon pages describing the setting of every single chapter. The author randomly name-drops famous figures in history. (“Oh, look, there’s Walt Whitman standing awkwardly at the literary salon eating finger food!” He’s not doing anything, so why should we care?) There’s not much originality as far as story, the author just writes around whatever historic event the book is based on. We don’t get the actual event, just the characters’ reactions to it. Speaking of the characters, they also waste precious page space talking about other people in history in the way that we causally talk amongst friends and colleagues about current events today. Now, I’m sure that happened back then, but I don’t want to read about it in a novel, especially when it does nothing to progress the plot!

Combine all of that into one novel, and you have Mrs. Poe. This novel lacked a basic plot. Osgood spent half the novel at literary salons listening to people talk about other people and looking around for Poe. The novel also had an excruciatingly slow start. In fact, for me, it didn’t pique my interest until the last 100 or so pages. For an “all-consuming affair” between Osgood and Poe, I didn’t feel the passion. They exchanged several love poems published in Poe’s literary magazine, the Broadway Journal, of which the reader only saw two stanzas. Fortunately the flat secondary characters kept the reader up to date with their constant blabbering and gossip. (“I know you wrote [Insert poem title here].” “I know you’re [Insert pen name here].”) The attraction between Poe and Osgood wasn’t explained well. Apparently Poe was initially drawn to Osgood by her poetry, and she was drawn to him because . . . he liked her first?

To be honest, Mrs. Poe reminded me a lot of 50 Shades of Grey (a dreadful novel I surprisingly finished). A mysterious man stalks a woman for no apparent reason other than he’s pursuing a relationship that will never work. She falls for him, again, not really knowing why, and whines constantly about her predicament—why they can’t be together yet she still craves for his touch, again, we don’t know why.

Eventually, the title character, Mrs. Poe, makes an appearance. Her character is very childish, petty and jealous. Although sickly, suffering from consumption (tuberculosis), she supposedly finds a way to attempt to end Frances’ life on a few occasions, all while smiling in her face pretending to be her friend. It seems as though even Poe is afraid of poor, near-death Virginia.

I’ll give Mrs. Poe 2.5 stars simply because the writing was good, and although the setting was too descriptive at times, I did feel like I was in 19th century New York. However, the story as a whole was boring and drawn out until, like I said, the last 100 pages, which by then was too late.

By the way, I hate that every time I think to write a book review, it’s always a bad one. Maybe one day I’ll read a book that changes my life, and I’ll share it with you.

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