Archive for November, 2013

Mrs. Poe

Friday, November 8th, 2013

By Lynn Cullen

The Short Take:

I felt like this historical novel was moving quite slowly, then realized I’d actually finished most of it. Obviously I was mesmerized. It’s a mood,y psychological-suspense-romance mash up that works surprisingly well. Of course, any book that features Edgar AllenPoe already has a special place on my bookshelves.

Why?

Anytime Poe is involved there will be controversy about his action,s his character, even his mental well-being. This book is set towards the latter part of his life — in 1945, New York City — when his poem, The Raven, is dazzling everyone.

However, Poe is not the central character. Instead, that is Frances Osgood, another actual historic woman who was a successful poet and author. Edgar’s young wife, Virginia, who is already suffering from tuberculosis, plays a major role as the title character.

Part of the fun in this book is the constant name dropping. Osgood and Mr. Poe regularly attend gatherings of New York’s creative stars: Mathew Brady, Walt Whitman, Horace Greeley, and Louis May Alcott (a NYC visitor) to name but a few.

However, at its core this is the love story of Poe and Osgood, something which most Poe experts insist was only a platonic flirtation carried on through published love poems but which Cullen takes several steps further.

The suspense aura come from the romantic triangle and its resulting interactions between the ailing but vindictive Mrs. Poe, the tortured genius E. A. Poe, and our heroine. Frances Osgood is struggling to find her own way through her writing. Now she has an irresistible attraction to Poe to deal with, as well.

There are also some interesting plot twists.

A Little Plot:

Frances Osgood’s artist husband is away, carrying on with some wealthy heiress, while she struggles to support her young family with her writing. Frances is already a fairly well-known poet when her star-crossed meeting with the Poe’s take place at a literary salon.

From the very first she feels a deep connection with him that he seems to reciprocate. However, with Mrs. Poe things are more complex — she seeks out Frances’ company yet also shows herself to be quite spiteful… and possibly much more.

For more about Lynn Cullen and her books, click here.

 

Slaughterhouse-Five

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

By Kurt Vonnegut

The Short Take:

Vonnegut’s most celebrated novel is an amazing amalgamation of personal experience, history, anti-war sentiment, and either mental instability or science fiction — or maybe some of both. It’s a brilliant read and as timely now as when it came out in 1969.

Why?

Because this is one of the most important novels of the 20th century, that’s “why” for starters. Beyond that, this novel is amazingly intricate, cramming an exceptional amount of fascinating story-telling into a mere 275 pages (trade paperback).

Intriguing characters are regularly introduced; from our anti-hero, Billy Pilgrim, to the writer of terrible sci-fi, Kilgore Trout, to the alien Tralfamadorians, who live in four dimensions. Even the “bit players” add significantly to the story.

The book jumps around in time (and space, maybe), but still manages to tell a linear story. Vonnegut is a masterful writer and he’s at the top of his game in this one — maybe because this novel is so deeply personal for him. Vonnegut experienced the Dresden bombing first-hand.

A Little Plot:

That’s easier said than done. Billy Pilgrim became unstuck in time when he was a kid fighting in WWII. Well, not exactly fighting. He’s lost, captured, and winds up a POW in Dresden during the horrific Allied bombing of that city.

For the rest of his life, he never knows when or where he’ll be at any time (maybe), plus he is abducted by aliens (maybe) the evening after his daughters wedding. The alien’s way of seeing the universe gives him a message of hope he decides to share with all.

But that’s just a very little bit of plot.

If you want to visit the official Kurt Vonnegut site, click here.

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