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Mr. Emerson's Wife

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  647 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
In this novel about Ralph Waldo Emerson's wife, Lidian, Amy Belding Brown examines the emotional landscape of love and marriage. Living in the shadow of one of the most famous men of her time, Lidian becomes deeply disappointed by marriage, but consigned to public silence by social conventions and concern for her family's reputation. Drawn to the erotic energy and intellec
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by St. Martin's Press
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Jun 30, 2008 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shannon by: Lisa
Waldo's always irritated me, but this book seriously made me hate him more, while mitigating my dislike of Thoreau. A great book about an interesting woman, plus it features Scarlet fever, which is one of my favorite diseases. A must read for anyone who's ever wished they could go back in time and give Ralph Waldo Emerson a throat-punch.
Susan Bailey
Jul 27, 2011 Susan Bailey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading the last few words, I slowly closed Mr. Emerson’s Wife and felt a welling up inside of emotion. I was so tied to the character of Lidian Jackson Emerson that I felt they were her emotions too.

This is how Amy Belding Brown’s book hit me. I lived inside of Mr. Emerson’s Wife for the last couple of weeks, crawling inside the head, the skin and the heart of Lidian Jackson Emerson. I loved Mr. Emerson as she loved him, felt the bitter disappointment and anger of promises not kept, and swooned
Arapahoe Libraries
This is a beautiful debut novel featuring the portrait of a marriage between an independent, fascinating woman and one of America's greatest philosophers, Ralph Waldo Emerson. It's an extraordinary read in which the author brings the 19th century to life, and takes an imaginative leap combining fiction with factual history.

Once married, the intelligent and passionate Mrs. Emerson discovers her husband's secret obsession. After years of hurt and loneliness she moves beyond duty and ultimately suc
Feb 26, 2010 Karyl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn into the story of Lydia (Lidian) Jackson from the very first few pages. It's rare that a book grips me so tightly, so I dove head-first into this novel and relished every second. It took me roughly two and a half days to get through this book, and only because I had a family to take care of in between reading sessions.

Lydia (renamed Lidian by her husband, Ralph Waldo Emerson) is a strong woman with strong convictions. Still unmarried in her early 30s, she has no interest in shacklin
Mar 20, 2010 Renee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
I have not, in recent history, read anything so profoundly disturbing. If it weren't the March selection for the book discussion group I've been attending I would have put it down before I was half done.

I only had a layman's knowledge of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists before starting this book. After reading it, I have no desire to read anything of Emerson's -- or about Emerson -- ever again. I realize that everyone is a product of their time -- no matter how enlightened they thi
Mar 30, 2008 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Written by an educator at Orchard House (Alcott's home), I was instantly intrigued--after all, I'm a musuem educator! I'm always cautious of books that take very famous people and imagine the rest of the story. Occasionally, I am horrified (though I rarely stop reading--it's that whole accident on a freeway syndrome). However, this book was fabulous. A wonderful psychological study of a woman who marries late in life to a genius--and finds that marriage to Emerson is not at all what she or he ...more
Northshire Bookstore
If you find yourself yearning for the days when you first read the great 19th century authors, you will want to immerse yourself in this story. I suppose if there are women out there who are still looking for their soul mate, they will be able to take heart in the poignant and expertly rendered tale of Lydian Jackson Emerson and the great intellectual and emotional fever that infected both men and women of the time. Absolutely stunning historical fiction. -- Karen F.
Jul 22, 2016 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
In the novelized account of one woman's life, Amy Belding Brown captures the dilemma of all who expect to makeover marriage in their own style. The language and pace of the book recreate an era without becoming unnecessarily stilted to a modern ear. Of course, filling in the "cracks" - the authors own words - left me wanting to explore the work of those who held to a more factual account, such as Delores Bird Carpenter or Ellen Tucker Emerson.
Jul 22, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this story of a brilliant, independent woman of the 1800s and the complexities of being married to the famous writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson. The author created an engaging love story, full of family challenges and interactions with other writers like Henry David Thoreau and the Alcotts.
Oct 24, 2016 Dorothy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made me feel I lived through the period

I enjoyed learning more about Emerson and Thoreau. I also had a deeper appreciation for the devastating effects of illness on family life,and the restrictions society placed on nineteenth century women.
Illustrates well the difficulty of being an independent thinking woman even when your husband has seemingly championed your role as such. Very interesting from an historical perspective.
Donna Kirk
Nov 17, 2007 Donna Kirk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apendix to original review:

This book is incredible. My friend Michele bought me a copy for my birthday. it's about ralph waldo emerson's wife. she is an amazing woman and her reticence to becoming a wife is heartfelt. her instinct to remian a strong self reliant female was over ridden by her deep love of emerson's lectures she witnessed in plymouth during cold winter nights. He proposed to her immediately after a few weeks having met her because of her strong mind and sensibilities. This book i
Jan 18, 2016 Annette rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read metaphysical writings by Emerson and was excited about getting to know the man from behind his philosophies. A man of great discipline, spending most of his time in his study room. After the death of his first wife and both brothers, he loses his faith in God and devotes himself to metaphysics.

This historical romance starts very strong with a lot of substance, but it doesn’t hold. I thought that creating a story about such two intelligent minds was bound to be a read with a lot of esse
Anatomy of a Marriage

This was my book club's most recent selection. We read March by Geraldine Brooks last year and I thought this would be an interesting and related choice.

I don't think the cover is indicative of the story the book holds. And I don't agree with the quote from Susan Cheever on the cover, "A soaring imaginative leap, this book combines detailed history with a page-turning illicit love story." Don't be fooled, this is not a romance novel and it doesn't 'burn with passion'.

I hav
Annie Falcke
I found this book profoundly sad. I read it over two days and it was one of those books I had to keep reading 'to get it over with'. I didn't want to live in its headspace for longer than absolutely necessary.

There was so much death, despair, and self-pity. I found the protagonist self righteous to start with, and then increasingly inconsistent and flimsy... Her portrait was painted as a 'sinner and a saint' without really sketching the grey area in between the two where the reality probably la
Feb 24, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Utterly fascinating. I could not stop reading this book, and didn't pick it particularly because I'm interested in Emerson or Transcendentalism -- I was snowed in with a blizzard raging outside and needed diversion. Well, I definitely got it. This page-turner, beautifully written and well-crafted, is more an internal dialogue than a real work of historical fiction. Irving Stone's "Love is Eternal" came to mind when I was reading it, as that was another work that told the story of a great man ...more
May 03, 2009 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book caught my eye because I teach Mr. Emerson every year in my American Lit class and so I thought I would enjoy a novel about his wife. (I always like to get the female perspective too!). We'll see how it goes--the first few chapters seem good!

Ok, now I'm finished. I liked many things about this book--the references to women of the time period and Transcendentalism. Emerson's failings as a husband are pretty awful--I cannot imagine being married to a man still in love with his dead first
Lisa of Hopewell
Oct 11, 2013 Lisa of Hopewell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
My only question about Amy Belding Brown's Mr. Emerson's Wife is WHY did I leave it on my to read list so long! This was superb! It's one of those book I wish I had written--it's that "real" and that moving. These are not cardboard cutouts of famous men and women. These are REAL people and they come alive on Ms. Brown's pages. The passion, grief, longing, heartache, joy, lust, ennui, fickleness, commitment and endurance of a deeply-felt marriage is all right here in one book. These are not mere ...more
JoAnne Pulcino
Apr 05, 2011 JoAnne Pulcino rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful debut novel featuring the portrait of a marriage between an independent, fascinating woman and one of America's greatest philosophers, Ralph Waldo Emerson. It's an extraordinary read in which the author brings the 19th century to life, and takes an imaginative leap combining fiction with factual history. Once married, the intelligent and passionate Mrs. Emerson discovers her husband's secret obsession. After years of hurt and loneliness she moves beyond duty and ultimately ...more
Jill Manske
This was an interesting and informative book. I had no idea that forward-thinking people in the mid-1800's were discussing women's rights and equality between the genders. It was also an eye opener to realize how common it was for children and adults to die of illnesses that would be treated with antibiotics in a doctor's office today. The author made the characters very real and believable. But it's still historical fiction, emphasis on fiction. The author admits that she didn't have a lot of ...more
Oct 01, 2012 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of historical novels written in the first person, so really enjoyed this book written from the perspective of Lydia/Lidian, the second wife of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Having just read "American Bloomsbury" by Susan Cheever, I felt I had some background knowledge of the cast of characters who appear in this book. The writing itself is graceful and a lot of it feels "true" to what is known about the people, though of course some of the events and conversatins may or may not be true ...more
Mar 11, 2016 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The reader is drawn into the mind and problems of a 19th century American woman and I am glad I do not live in that time. The fact that she is married to Emerson, the famous transcendentalist does not negate how narrow her life is and how few chances she has to change it. Whether some of the material is true or not really doesn't matter. I was struck by the fact that disease was such a player in all these people lives. Thoreau would only live to his forties and many close members of Emerson's ...more
Jan 08, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok
This is meant to be a piece of 19th-century lifestyle porn, but it incidentally gets across a couple of disturbing points very clearly. First, being a woman at any time before the end of the 20th century pretty much sucked, all nostalgia to the contrary. Second, and much more interesting, the 19th century marks the confluence of the masochism of American Protestantism with the psychological development of the modern Western individual. In other words, the Victorians are the generation that ...more
Nov 28, 2014 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this author's second book, "Flight of the Sparrow" (about interaction between Puritans and Indians) and enjoyed it, so decided to read her first one, "Mr. Emerson's Wife." Reading these two books has made me a bigger fan of historical fiction as a genre. Mr. Emerson's Wife tells the story of Ralph Waldo Emerson's second wife, Lidian, as a first person narrative. It was very interesting to learn more about the lives of women in this era--even someone who ran in such famous circles ...more
I kept thinking that Mr. Emerson’s wife, Lydia or Lidian, held herself back. She tended to the household duties much too readily. I truly did not understand her motivations for what she did (not following her own intellectual pursuits) and how she would pick fights with her husband, and not really attempting a rational talk with him at any point. I know I'm a "modern" women now speaking about an era past, but she was a strong woman. The book kept close to facts as I know, but of course this was ...more
Nancy Kent
Sep 12, 2010 Nancy Kent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing look into the life of Lydia Jackson Emerson, second wife of the great philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Mr. Emerson (which is the way even his wife often referred to him) was rather cool and distant to her and even decided her name was too plain, so he decided to call her Lidian. I particularly enjoyed the special relationship Mrs. Emerson had with Henry David Thoreau, her husband's colleague.
This is a very intelligently written story of a marriage, with its many tribulations. The
Feb 12, 2010 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read this book mainly because of my interest in the writings of Thoreau and Emerson. It was quite intriguing to see them come to life in this fictional way. Brown was careful to frame the entire story around factual events such as the forest fire Thoreau caused and the many visitations to Bush by important thinkers. It is very well written. My only problem is the affair Lidian had with Henry in this novel. Most of us in the Thoreau Society believe strongly that Henry's relationship with her ...more
Kate Lawrence
My interest in Lidian Emerson arose mostly from being a lifelong fan of Walden, and wondering about the relationship between Lidian and Thoreau. I deeply enjoyed the author's take on this close friendship, plus Lidian's relationship with her husband, all of which came across as quite plausible. I'm glad to see a spotlight shining here on Lidian, who seemed stuck in the background, had to put up with a lot, and never received the recognition she deserved for her considerable intellectual gifts. ...more
May 21, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
I loved this book. The story moved at a nice pace and I felt I was indeed spending time in Concord in the 1840s. I'd like to read a biography of Lidian although it's probably not as entertaining as this fantasy about the relationship between her and Thoreau.

Lidian was a remarkable woman for her time, she married later in life, never really intending to marry at all. Emerson unfortunately could never let go of his obsession with his first wife who died of tuberculosis eighteen months after they
Terrie Purkey
Written from the viewpoint of Ralph Waldo Emerson's wife, this book is a well written slice of life of the era of the mid to late 1800's. Although a novel, it seems to be very well researched from the little fact checking that I did and feels very authentic. "The book combines detailed history with a page turning illicit love story."

It's not a genre I generally choose so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the writing style, the flow of words which felt true to the era but easier t
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Amy Belding Brown, a graduate of Bates College, received her Master of Fine Arts degree in January 2002, from Vermont College of Norwich University, where she worked closely with Bret Lott and Victoria Redel. After living and working in central Massachusetts for nearly twenty years, she returned to her native Vermont in 2011, where she continues to write poetry and fiction. She is the author of ...more
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