… the love affair between Frances Osgood, a struggling female poet, and the mysterious, brooding Edgar Allen Poe? Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen may be a work of historical fiction, but the love affair and other period details make for an astoundingly realistic novel.
The story revolves around the dark love triangle between Poe, his young bride (and cousin!), and Frances Osgood, a struggling poet who meets Poe at the height of his success and finds him just as intriguing as his poetry. Frances is still legally married, even though her husband left months ago and has been seen in the company of several women. And in 1840’s New York, the idea of a woman carrying on an adulterous affair has severe and far-reaching consequences. And then there is Virginia Poe, Edgar’s young, manipulative bride who attempts to cultivate a relationship with Frances, although Frances is quite sure there is an ulterior motive behind the friendship.
Edgar Allan Poe is not the first name that comes to mind when you think of romantic leads, but the author does a magnificent job of portraying Poe not as the brooding and macabre legend of pop culture, but as a conflicted, flawed, and intelligent man. I found myself swooning over Mr. Poe just as much as Frances was!
And although the novel is told from Frances’ point of view, the eponymous Mrs. Poe is the source of the novel’s most suspenseful moments. Her off-putting nature creates a sense of instability, and I found myself feeling just as unbalanced as Frances whenever Mrs. Poe was around.
This is a novel that I could theoretically suggest to anyone, with its minimal explicit content and superb storytelling. And despite the novel’s pervasive chill, there is something quite magical about seeing these historical characters brought back to life. This book haunted me long after I finished it.
Reviewed by Katie (staff)