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Mrs. Poe Hardcover – October 1, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 414 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. Agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeney Agency. (Oct.)

From Booklist

“The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart”—these scary pieces by Edgar Allan Poe stirred the emotions of the literary ladies of his time. But in 1845, Poe stirred up gossip, too, with his attention to Frances Sargent Osgood, a poet deserted by her philandering husband. Poe’s deathly ill, 23-year-old wife (his first cousin, whom he married when she was 13) seems to be suspicious. Taking advantage of letters and published poems, imaginative historical novelist Cullen (Reign of Madness, 2011) cleverly spins a mysterious, dark tale told by Mrs. Osgood about the long-ago intrigue, with just enough facts to make it believable. Celebrities like Louisa May Alcott, Walt Whitman, and John Jacob Astor make cameo appearances. Others—the creator of graham crackers, the author of Bartlett’s Quotations, Horace Greeley—also step in for a fun romp through history. As the story unfolds, we’re left to wonder if Mrs. Poe is Edgar’s Mr. Hyde, or is Poe himself the villain? It’s enough to make the teacups rattle. --Laurie Borman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; First Ed edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476702918
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476702919
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (414 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #530,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Anne M. Hunter VINE VOICE on August 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I don't think I would have ordered this book if I'd realized that it's
an historical romance, not an historical novel. Frances Osgood was a
(real) poet, who was quite popular in the New York literary society of
the 1840s. Horace Greeley, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, Elizabeth Ellet,
and Margaret Fuller, among many others notables, feature in the book. Osgood's connection with Poe was a major scandal, as they were both married, although Frances' husband had left her to dally with some of his portrait subjects. Poe and Frances Osgood wrote anonymous but
apparently quite obvious flirtatious poems to each other, published in
Poe's literary journal. The author works from these facts to invent
the details of both their relationship with each other, and the
relationship between Frances and Poe's wife and his mother-in-law.
These are all very dramatic, overwrought people, as the author draws them.

One aspect of the book that I particularly enjoyed was the friendship
between Frances and her friend Eliza Bartlett, who has taken Frances
and her two young daughters into her home after Frances is thrown out
of the Astor House hotel when her husband left behind a few months of
unpaid bills. The friendship and loyalty between the two women was
delightful. The servants were also real people and part of the story. Another nice thing was that the clothes were not described
constantly in great detail, as in many historical romances.

Frances seemed ambivalent to Poe -- she seemed too quick to accept
others' attempts to portray him as evil and dangerous. Mrs Poe and
her mother seem a bit mad and quite unpleasant.

The book was a fairly easy and exciting read, although it got a bit
repetitive.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Many who have reviewed this book both on Amazon.com and Goodreads.com seem a bit preoccupied with the "historical accuracy" of Cullen's narrative. While I understand the need for historical authenticity in any work about a literary figure, even one as shrouded in every possible literary myth you could imagine, like Poe, it gets a bit chafing after awhile. Poe turned himself out as a larger than life character, and if you read a sober biography of him, I would say he earned it.

In "Mrs. Poe" by Lynn Cullen, we see the elusive figure of Frances Osgood, a sort of woulda coulda shoulda female figure in Poe's life, blown to fantastic proportions. With a very definite lyricism and definite darkness of prose (this is not a literary lite pick), Cullen illuminates how difficult it was for a woman to be taken seriously in letters at this time, and engages in speculative fantasy of the highest sort regarding the two.

Osgood was herself a sort of tragic figure, and one can safely put down her relationship with Poe as a flirtation that he may have taken a bit too seriously. A jinxed figure and a hysteric with an indifferent husband, Cullen drives home the kind of karma the two had via life circumstances very effectively. With Poe, why not fantasize? That's what he loved most after all, and understandably so, considering his own life. Cullen is a talent and this is highly recommended to anyone fascinated with Poe along with the neglected but fantastic would be biopic: The Lighthouse at the End of the World by Stephen Marlowe.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This novel is not in a genre I regularly read (I typically prefer my historical fiction to include swords), but that said, “Mrs. Poe” is a beautifully written and well-crafted tale. Lynn Cullen has a knack for bringing historical female artists to life on the page. “The Creation of Eve” is a great example, but “Mrs. Poe” is even better.

I knew nothing about the poet Frances Osgood before reading this book, although I was familiar with Edgar Allen Poe from his poetry and knew a little about his notorious personal life (such as marrying his 13-year-old cousin—the Mrs. Poe in the novel). Frances is a character worth rooting for, while Poe is portrayed as a dark, mysterious, and conflicted soul, as one might imagine from reading his poems. More importantly, the author has given us a number of creepy antagonists, which really ramp up the story's tension. There’s even a bit of a twist at the end. All in all, it makes for an engaging read.
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Format: Hardcover
Oh, dear God, the very last thing the world needs is another novel about Poe that completely trashes all the known facts about him and transforms the man into a slimy ladies' man, to boot.

Where do I begin? There was NO AFFAIR between Poe and Frances Osgood. There is not one genuine Poe scholar who takes the idea at all seriously. Their relationship was, at most, a platonic acquaintance that lasted only one year. Osgood and her husband were never estranged, and there is no evidence whatsoever that Samuel was ever unfaithful. The Osgoods, by all the known evidence, were completely devoted to each other, and it is as certain as can possibly be that he was the father of ALL her children.

Many women found Poe attractive and fascinating, but in a "fangirl" sort of way. To paint him as a man-about-town womanizer is just absurd. In fact, although Poe loved and revered "womanhood" in an idealistic sense, what we know about him strongly suggests he was asexual.

And what Cullen did to Virginia Poe! To paint this poor young woman as an antebellum version of Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" is beyond absurd--it is disgusting.

As an amateur Poe scholar and long-time admirer of his work, I knew I'd dislike this novel when I first heard about it, but I had to read it to appreciate its true horror. And, believe me, I deeply regret that I did. The bland, cliched writing and uneasy lurches between simplistic Harlequin romance-type fiction and ludicrous Gothic horror would be laughable if it wasn't so insulting to our intelligence. I had thought "Poe & Fanny" and "The Raven's Bride" were about as low as Poe fiction could sink. I should have known that eventually, another author would come along to prove me wrong.
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