Gallery Books, 2013
New York, 1845. Frances Osgood is a known in narrow circles poetess and mother of two children. Her husband, Samuel, a portrait painter and a womanizer, left her with debts, and went to Europe to work on portraits of rich ladies, whom he invariably sleeps with. Just as he once seduced Frances, writing her portrait. Samuel had good money painting, but he squandered the money until his escape. His wife and children turned out on the street, and the Bartletts, family friends, let Franes live under their roof.
Now Frances, who wrote poems for children to make a living, is alone. Her cheerful poetry does not find a way into magazines, editors need darkness and hopelessness, something in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. "The Raven" at the time became the most discussed poem and received fame and money. His poems are reprinted in newspapers and magazines, editors ask for something new, and Poe gives lectures, criticizing other poets, as well as working in the magazine.
When Poe, who not so long ago moved with his wife to New York, appears on one of the readings, friends of the family invite Frances to a meeting with the poet. Never smiling and dark, Poe suddenly speaks highly of Frances’ poetry and makes it an enjoyable experience.
Frances wants to get to know Poe better to gain from him inspiration and efficiency. Poe sends his poems to Francis because he values her opinion of him as a poet. The protagonist finds his poetry disturbing, but pretends that she likes it. This is followed by an immediate invitation to the home of the Poes. The poet lives in the house with his sick wife Virginia, she is also his cousin, whom he married when she was only 13 years old, and her mother Mrs. Clemm. Gradually, Poe and Frances become friends, gradually friendship passing into flirtation. Friends of Frances warn her that she better not associate with the poet, it will not lead to no good.
Mrs. Poe, historical and mystical romance, is primarily interesting not because of its mysticism or melodrama, but because of history. The book reads like a fine fictionalized biography of an averge poet of XIX century. Had Lynn Cullen invented this literary world or she actually studied the subject, is not so important. Each chapter of the novel reveals new details of the lives of poets, writers, editors and publishers. The publication of "The Crow" has a great influence on the literary process in mid-nineteenth century. Fights between poets occured at that time, the tabloids were eager to publish scandals and rumors, and it was not easy to survive on literary work - almost nothing has changed. The changes are only that newspaper stopped publishing poetry, and poetry became a hobby, semi-professional activity that does not produce money, top.
The figure of Edgar Allan Poe in the novel is covered by fog: the novel is written from the point of view of Frances Osgood, and what happens in the mind and heart of the poet will remain a mystery. Mrs. Poe, the poet's wife, an uncreative person, is revealed better in the book. We see her in a relationship with her husband and with Frances.
Romance in the novel is quite sparse: Frances more than half of the book can not decide whether she wants to be with Poe or not, largely because she is highly moral person. She does not want to cause harm Mrs. Poe, and she does not want to plunge into trouble if her affair with Poe becomes known to her husband. Poems that poets write to each other is also quite innocent, it is hardly even love poems. Anyway Frances is a woman too cautious to ensure that it could erupt any passion.
The presence of Poe promises mysticism, but three separate episodes is hardly a mysticism. Cullen leads us to suspect Mrs. Poe to the atrocities against the protagonist, but by and large these attempts to break Frances away from Poe are quite commonplace, and certainly you can not believe in their otherworldly origins.
Despite the shortcomings, Mrs. Poe is good fiction, written with knowledge of the details. Cullen writes easily, with a touch of stylization in the language. In general, the novel can be described by a scene out of it when Osgood comes to the publisher and offers him her poems about flowers. Publisher says that he needs no literary tricks, and that catchy stuff is what is being sold. And Mrs. Poe is difficult to call the height of literature, but as a commercial fiction this book is above average.