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Mr. Emerson's Wife Hardcover – April 21, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (April 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312336373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312336370
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The line between historical and fictional is murky in this nineteenth-century tale of love among the Transcendentalists. Lydia is a strong, independent woman in her thirties, sworn to remain single. Then she meets the brilliant Ralph Waldo Emerson and is swept off her feet by his promises of a new kind of egalitarian marriage. Once married though, Lydia discovers her husband's secret obsession with his dead wife. Lonely and disillusioned, Lydia falls in love with her husband's dashing young protege, the manly and odd Henry David Thoreau. As a romance novel, this is an excellent, engaging story. Readers will feel sympathy and affection for all of the characters. However, since this is a first-person narrative, the lack of a historical note explaining what in the novel is fact, what is conjecture, and what is fiction dulls the overall impression. Still, a good book-club or beach read, for it is a substantive page-turner. Marta Segal
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"Amy Belding Brown's novel is a beautiful work that renders effortlessly the sentiments and sensuousness of a woman who is, to use Ms. Brown's own terms, "at war with herself, a woman of opposites who yearns to reconcile her mental acuity with her emotional sensitivity." The spiritual, emotional and intellectual lives she is after illuminating for us are wonderfully ambitious, and it is quite refreshing to see that ambition backed up with a quality of writing that bears up to the weight of its subject matter."
- Bret Lott, author of A Song I Knew by Heart

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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I hope Amy Belding Brown writes another book soon.
E. K. Johnson
It happened so often yet people rarely touched on it when writing historical fiction, and I think Ms. Brown did a wonderful job of exploring this topic.
YA Librarian
If you enjoy historic fiction,American philosophical thought, feminism and a good read you will enjoy this book.
Andrea

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on May 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In the 1830s, Ralph Waldo Emerson was known throughout New England as a captivating lecturer and writer, as well as an eligible widower. Lydia Jackson heard him speak in her hometown of Plymouth, and she felt honored and almost unworthy when the great man afterward engaged her in personal conversation. Any number of women would gladly have exchanged places with her. But it was *she* whom Emerson sought out and *she* to whom he proposed marriage. (And *she* of whom he also demanded a name change and a move to Concord, but that's beside the point...)

Theirs was to be an intellectual match of equals and a real partnership, which was an unusual and ambitious undertaking for the time. But after the arrival of their first child, Waldo and Lidian fell into the traditional roles that marriages generally adhere to. For Lidian, the experience resulted in feelings of abandonment and unappreciation. She was often the last to know Waldo's travel plans for lecture tours. She became jealous of every female guest who spent time in parlor discussions with her husband -- with or without good reason -- especially Margaret Fuller. This was *not* the fulfilling life she had imagined.

And so, wanting more, she turned to a close family friend for conversation, caring, and concern - Henry David Thoreau. History has shown that the two were friends. In this novel, they become a bit more intimate, with Lidian being the instigator. In the 21st century, we're not surprised by this kind of turn of events, for we read similar headlines about celebrity marriages and third-party affairs on the front covers of grocery store rags. Those of us who are Thoreau fans would like to think that he would have been above that kind of behavior. And Lidian too, for that matter.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By LoneStarLibrarian on July 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
During my reading of Mr. Emerson's Wife, I resolved to read more about the real lives of the characters involved:Lidian Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Historical fiction can sometimes be a little dry or heavy because it is stuffed too full of facts. Not the case here! I found Lidian Emerson to be a very sympathetic character. She marries a famous philosopher who promises her an equal and mutually respectful relationship, but especially after she becomes a mother, he turns his back on her and treats her like a servant. Lidian's relationship with Henry David Thoreau is what I am most curious about. The author stirs up a romance, a very believable romance, about which I very much enjoyed reading, but I'd like to know the facts. Probably she took some liberty, but such is the playground of fiction. I did not want this book to end, and have reserved some related reading for myself. An excellent first novel!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mark Coburn on May 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
MR. EMERSON'S WIFE is beautifully written. The people live. The psychologically probing portrait of the main character and narrator, Lidian Jackson Emerson, is especially rich. We know her through her own words, yet know her far better than she can know herself. We watch her change and grow. We feel for Lidian's plight and struggles, yet we never view her as merely the helpless victim of her circumstances- her time, role and place.

Ms. Brown also brings Lidian's world to life. The novel is scrupulously researched; but much more important, Amy Belding Brown has a feeling for the past. As but a minor example, most of us now view Emerson's Concord as a cultural center-the Athens of "the American Renaissance." Yet to the newly married Lidian-arriving from bustling, coastal Plymouth where she was raised-Concord is a drab, almost hick inland village.

Like another reviewer, Corinne H. Smith, I greatly admired this tale while rejecting one of its main premises. But isn't that often one of the deepest pleasures of a fine historical novel? If you want Aaron Burr "as he really was," you grab a biography. But if you prefer a portrait that stirs your imagination and challenges your assumptions, you reach for Gore Vidal's BURR. Similarly, MR. EMERSON'S WIFE offers a challenging as well as gripping portrait of the Emersons and their milieu.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Cora on September 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Though I must first admit to my strong dislike of historical fiction as a genre, I admit wholeheartedly that I really enjoyed this book. I love literary history, and usually find historical fiction to be a grave disappointment--not so with this book! I was up all night reading; more than being about these characters based on real people of significance (Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, Fuller, and Mrs. Emerson, of course), it is about a woman who finds herself married and in danger of being subjugated to her powerful husband and the role of wife itself. I know it's fiction, but it really has changed the way I view Mr. Emerson. If fiction has a purpose to both entertain and elucidate, this book is certainly successful, for it really does inspire its readers to want to know more about these people--not just as figures or "characters" of history, but of their real lives. Though the ending was a bit pat, there were several gripping scenes, and overall the book is written with energy and insight. Extremely enjoyable!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By YA Librarian on August 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I quickly fell in love with this book. The writing is excellent and flows off the page with ease and grace.

Lydia was very independent and had a great mind. She was dedicated to being a spinster until she meets Mr. Emerson. Everyone encouraged her the match was right so she decided to marry. Mr. Emerson told her their marriage would be like none other, but as time went on her marriage was not as she expected. She tried to make the best of her situation as did most women of the time. Lydia constantly struggled throughout the book with her own desires and her role as wife and mother. I also loved the constant death in the book. It happened so often yet people rarely touched on it when writing historical fiction, and I think Ms. Brown did a wonderful job of exploring this topic. I truly felt sorry for Lydia. She was a great woman who put up with a lot of turmoil for her family. Its sad to see how she because like so many other married women. I cannot help but believed in the end she was not true to herself and lost her path. But I wonder if most women who married then also became victims and lost their true selves.

I hope Ms. Brown writes a book about Mrs. Alcott. I believe she would do an excellent job. Please Ms. Brown write more historical fiction!
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