Augie Dubbins, now a teenager, meets back up with Poe after receiving word of Virginia's death. A letter from Alfred Brunrichter, a prominent scientisAugie Dubbins, now a teenager, meets back up with Poe after receiving word of Virginia's death. A letter from Alfred Brunrichter, a prominent scientist & doctor of Pittsburgh, invites Poe to the city for a few readings and, as a plus, the fawning admiration of the local literary society. The pair accept & travel to the city, only to find themselves tangled in another mystery--young girls from the area have been disappearing without a trace from the busy streets. Both our protagonists try to solve the crime: Augie to help propel himself into a career as a journalist, Poe to reclaim his status as the father of the detective novel. But the relationship between the two has altered over the past seven years, causing plenty of arguments and misunderstandings.
DH is an ok sequel but doesn't totally live up to On Night's Shore: A Novel. There is so much going on here, so many feints & clues that I actually thought the real mystery was much more complex than it turned out to be. A lengthy conversation on cannibalism must mean that there's some really gory stuff coming up, right? No. The luxurious overindulgence of glass objects in the doctor's house in a city known for its iron works must mean there's some connection to his smithy & the bodies that disappear without a trace, right? No. The wild intoxicated parties that happen in a house full of spyholes must mean some seriously fucked-up libertine is behind all of this, right?! No. Oooooo-kay? While all of the above details set up an atmosphere ripe for a character like Poe to fall into a literal landscape of his imagination, nothing really pays off plot-wise, but gives readers some thought as to what could have been.
On top of the mystery though is the strained relationship between Augie & Poe, which Silvis captures well. The conflicting motives of compassion & disgust that define their interactions underlines the teenager-parent relationship that the two fall into. I also enjoyed Augie's determination to remake himself into someone else; his drive reflects the timeless bold youthfulness that we Americans seem to idolize in the arts. From his name change to his attraction to journalism to his desire to run off to Mexico despite the peril all recall writers like Stephen Crane, Jack London & Ernest Hemingway. Silvis may have used these writers as a model but he is able to gesture to them while still keeping Augie's characterization intact. One flaw though is that Augie is retelling this story as an older man & frequently interjects laments about how impetuous he was or how he misunderstood something. These statements grow tiresome & seem to be added to patch some of the more threadbare story moments.
A brisk read & entertaining enough for those who want to revisit Silvis's take on Poe. But this story is more for the completists than anyone coming to the novel without knowing the previous book....more
I came across this book unexpectedly while shelving & checked it out when I realized my reading list of Poe fiction was short on female perspectivI came across this book unexpectedly while shelving & checked it out when I realized my reading list of Poe fiction was short on female perspectives. I am pleased to say that Bride is a competently written work of historical fiction that explores Virginia Clemm & Edgar Allan Poe's domestic life from their first encounter up to and after her death at 24.
First, I'll list a few things that I think Hart got right. Her handling of Virginia's & Edgar's marriage when she was 13 grows first from Poe's desire to gather the scraps of his family around him & Virginia's childish ideas about what marriage entails into a relationship between two dreamers. Hart's pairing of Virginia's ignorance about adult life & her domestic dreams suit Poe's literary ambitions & his very real shortcomings. The couple's struggle between the extremes of poverty & abundance are well-defined as well as some of the ugly emotional realities of the codependency between the lovers. The anxious & tiresome pattern of keeping vigilance over a husband's bad habits have poignant consequences.
But the story does have its flaws as well. Virginia's tone is a little too measured throughout the story. This can be partially forgiven since she is narrating her life as a ghost & has no emotional attachment to anything anymore. But add a few of her impromptu actions & Virginia comes off as Pollyannaish at times. Two specific moments come to mind: her judgement of the bar crowd she performs for & her perception of the poor Irish homes in the notoriously bad Five Points neighborhood. In the first instance, Virginia decides that the rough crowd she's playing for isn't so bad without actually interacting with anyone or witnessing anything to inspire this realization. In the second instance, she simply happens to be passing by the neighborhood & remarks on how charming the houses seem without any recognition of the surrounding area or how similar she is in circumstance to these people. These naturally good thoughts just seem to occur to her. I can appreciate Hart wanting her protagonist to appear tolerant & kind-hearted, but this would have worked better if she had actually experienced something.
As I mentioned, I did enjoy the portrayal of Virginia as a dreamer & having her own intense interior life, but there are certain moments that could have used some oomph. Virginia is supposed to spend a year resting under the influence of morphine in the hopes that her initial symptoms of TB will be mitigated. But this section passes within a few pages & the glimpses of Virginia's own darkness just tantalizes readers with what could have been. Overall, I think Hart's characterization mixes a good ratio of immaturity, romanticism, & artistic sensibility that develops through the story. I just wanted a little bit more heart from her.
A decent addition to my Poelandia reading list & could work as a companion to Nevermore as an introduction into this sub-genre....more