Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn [Review]

Title: The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson
Author: Jerome Charyn
Genre: Historical Fiction
Genre: Feb. 14, 2011
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co
ISBN-10: 0393339173
ISBN-13: 978-0393339178
My Copy: Publisher
Reviewer: Rex

3 out of 5 Robots!

Jerome Charyn, continuing his exploration of American history through fiction, has written a startling novel about Emily Dickinson in her own voice, with all its characteristic modulations that he learned from her letters and poems. The poet dons a hundred veils, alternately playing wounded lover, penitent, and female devil. 

We meet the significant characters of Emily's life, including her tempestuous sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert; her brooding father, Edward; and the Reverend Charles Wadsworth, who may have inspired some of her greatest letters and poems. Charyn has also invented characters, including an impoverished fellow student at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, who will betray her; and a handyman named Tom, who will obsess Emily throughout her life. Charyn has written an extraordinary adventure that will disturb and delight.

My Review:
First and foremost- I'm not an Emily Dickinson buff, so I opened this book with a totally unbiased point of view. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The writing was beautiful and evolved with the story. It was a splendid breath of fresh air - must have needed a break from my typical genres more than I thought. The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson is vividly written and I can't compliment the author enough for the sweet-sound of the writing. It was my favorite part of the book. 

So, the book is a bit slow at parts, but it was easy to get through and kept me interested enough that the slow bits didn't bother me. It starts off in 1848, as Emily is studying at Mount Holyoke and then follows her life after. There are both fictional and true characters throughout the story, the fictional characters adding a bit more drama to the plot. It was fun seeing the Emily Dickinson that Charyn envisions come to life, especially because she was such a recluse.  

This was a gorgeously written historical novel with some facts intertwined with fiction. I would definitely recommend it to those that want to see something different regarding Emily Dickinson or those that just like a good historical fiction novel.

1 comment :

  1. Aww, thanks Julia for the review. I'm glad that you enjoyed Jerome's writing style. It's always a good thing to hear a book described as a breath of fresh air :)

    For all those interested in following along on the book's blog tour, hop on over to



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