The Friends of the Princeton Public Library Book Club is reading Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen. Join them on Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. to be part of the discussion; everyone is invited to join the group!
Cullen, whose previous novels have focused on obscure women from the past, such as Juana of Castile (Reign of Madness) and Sofonisba Anguissola (The Creation of Eve), now turns her attention to Frances Sargent Osgood, a mid-19th-century poet and children’s author who, some believe, was romantically involved with Edgar Allen Poe. As the novel opens in 1845, Poe is the toast of literary New York, having just published the sensationally successful poem The Raven. Meanwhile, Mrs. Osgood, recently spurned by her philandering artist husband, is under enormous pressure to publish her work and thereby provide for her two young daughters. At a series of literary salons (many featuring cameos by other famous names of Poe’s day), Mrs. Osgood and Poe develop a mutual attraction, as noticed not only by their peers but also by Poe’s young and fragile wife, Virginia. Virginia’s initially friendly overtures to her romantic rival become increasingly threatening, a nod to the macabre that seems unnecessary and gratuitous, as does the often-awkward insertion of research into the narrative. More successful is Cullen’s portrayal of Osgood as a literary woman attempting to make a name (and a living) for herself against the odds. (Publisher’s Weekly review)