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Mr. Emerson's Wife

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  887 ratings  ·  129 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 children and her husband's reputation. Drawn to the erotic e ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published September 5th 2000 by St. Martins Press-3PL
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3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  887 ratings  ·  129 reviews

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Jun 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Yelda Basar Moers
I picked this up because I love the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, two of the most famous Transcendentalists (Transcendentalism was a 19th century movement that focused on spirituality and nature and away from organized religion). So when I saw this book, a historical novel about the real life love triangle between Emerson, Thoreau and Emerson's wife Lidian Jackson, who was an intellectual and thinker in her own right, I was intrigued!

Emerson and Thoreau's lives were incred
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Amazing novel. Well researched and well-imagined. Amy Belding Brown imbues Lidian Emerson with reality and vibrant pulsating life. She was intellectually and emotionally way ahead of her time, yet staunchly inhibited by her religious orthodoxy and the expectations of behavior for 19th century women. I only wish that (the real or imagined) letters from Henry David Thoreau to Lidian Emerson were still in existence. One wonders if such love letters ever existed. Brown's writing brings the honored T ...more
Feb 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 10, 2010 rated it liked it
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
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
Jan 27, 2010 rated it liked it
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 wa ...more
Amy Renshaw
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ex ...more
JoAnne Pulcino
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 s ...more
Northshire Bookstore
Jul 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit-fiction, karen-f
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.
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Paula Cappa
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love this book so much that I read it once a year. Lydia Emerson's life, her marriage to Ralph Waldo Emerson, her perspectives on work and women in the 19th century are more than just fascinating. Brown really brings you to Concord with these characters. I look forward to reading more of Brown's work but, honestly, reading this book every year is like living in Concord at the height of its literary achievements. Few novels bring me to tears. This one did.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was handed on to me by someone who described it as a light-hearted read. I don't usually go for light-hearted, my own interpretation of such a description leans to 'being without grit, or cause for much contemplation' especially when unaccompanied by any further comments about the story. However, from time to time I deviate from my long list of anticipated 'to read' books and allow in a random interjection, with the superstition of it being serendipitous.

The novel was enjoyable in so
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ah! So good!! Amy Belding Brown, you are a historical fiction wizard and I must read everything you've written!
I just adored this book. It has done what any historical fiction worth its salt should do - sparked an interest in historical figures, times and events that previously held no interest to the reader. Now I want to learn more about Lidian Emerson, the Underground Railroad, transcendentalism and the first abolitionists, not to mention Ralph Waldo Emerson's and Henry David Thoreau's works.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
I don’t like books that make me root for married people to have affairs. I feel manipulated by this whole story and wasn’t a big fan. That said, my two stars was for the knowledge I gained about three interesting people from history and their lives; as there were some events which were based on facts included in the book.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The research that went into this book is just AMAZING. Although it's a fictional account, it felt like it was real, that it easily could have happened.
The only reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 was because the detail sometimes slowed me down. Too much detail and not enough story in a couple parts.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took me a long time to finish

The language was difficult to get through. What should have taken me a day at most to read- took over a week. I despaired finishing. It kept my interest but I could only manage a few pages at a time. this was a book club choice and one I may not have picked to read, it was worth the struggle, in that I never thought about Emerson's wife.

Lorri Lofvers
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Provides insights into Emerson and transcendentalist and abolitionist thinking of the times. Portrays culture of marriage, relationships, and health at that time in our country. Names historical figures and their personalities and shows life in those time among transcendentalists. Set in New England in familiar places. Quiet read, nuanced, requires interest in relationships.
Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three and a half stars, yet I couldn't bring myself to round it up to four. I find the time and place and people interesting but this was a slow read for me, with a few inconsistencies and in need of further editing.
Ruth Bobzin
Enjoyable historical fiction.

Pleasing read with reference to 19th century transcendentalists.Romance is fictional and at many times implausible but there is something honest about the characters the author creates from historical characters.
Oct 24, 2016 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.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I do not know how accurate this story was, but it kept me captivated to the last page because of its love story and close friendships. You see a side of Ralph Waldo Emerson that many do not hear about since it looks beyond his writing.
Cynthia Graham
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Emerson's Wife is a subtle, adult love story filled with the ebb and flow and nuances that love often brings. Cast with some of the greatest minds in American thinking, it is a joy for any fan of Transcendentalism or the minds that created and lived it.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
Fully fictional story about a relationship between Lydian Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Tedious to get through.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book about an era and people that is fascinating, Recommend
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading about the life of women in those days
Melissa A Comer
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This captivating novel has renewed my life-long interest in all things Thoreauvian.
Donna Kirk
Nov 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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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 Fl ...more
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