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Miss Emily

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,161 ratings  ·  242 reviews
Emily Dickinson’s life is reimagined in her own voice and through eyes of a young Irish maid—an enchanting novel in the spirit of Longbourn and Mrs. Poe

Ada Concannon’s first day in America is a success. She’s the new maid for the respected but eccentric Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts. Despite the differences in age and class, eighteen-year-old Ada, “a neat litt
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 14th 2015 by Penguin Books
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Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,161 ratings  ·  242 reviews

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Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written short novel about an imagined friendship between the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson and a (fictional) young Irish maid, Ada Colcannon, who comes to work for the Dickinson family. Chapters alternate between the points of view of Emily and Ada, with the two voices captured perfectly in O'Connor's evocative prose. The roles of women of different classes and the limitations on their freedom are integral to a story which balances cruel and violent events with acts of friendship, ...more
Margaret Madden
Emily Dickinson loves words more than people. She notices the beauty in the minutia of nature and sees random darkness of the world around her. Quite content to remain within the confines of her house and gardens in Amhurst, she adores her friend Susan, is indifferent to her family and whiles away her hours writing verse, in her bedroom. However, when a new maid arrives from Ireland she is strangely drawn to her chatty and inquisitive nature. Ada is not backward in coming forward and balances ou ...more
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First, a caveat: this will be a very difficult book to read for anyone who is sensitive to depictions of sexual assault. An incident of sexual violence is described in detail and becomes a key plot point for the second half of the novel.

That said, this novel is a winning depiction of a fictionalized Emily Dickinson, told in part in Dickinson's own voice and in part through the voice of her Irish-born housemaid, Ada Concannon. Emily sees Ada as a friend and an equal. Over the course of the novel,
I’m a sucker for novels based on the lives of historical writers. Emily Dickinson’s Amherst is an inviting setting, and the alternating first-person voices of Emily and the family’s Irish maid, Ada Concannon, are both well realized. However, the plot soon gets mired in the melodrama of a wrong done to Ada in the Dickinson household, which results in a crisis that – you guessed it – requires the reclusive Emily to leave the house. After reading, I remained greedy for more of Emily’s inner life an ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This lovely, slender novels imagines a friendship between poet Emily Dickinson and their Irish maid Ada Concannon.

I was immediately taken with this book, as both Ada and Emily are charming and captivating. The chapters alternate between their viewpoints, as the story of their friendship and the dramas around them unfold.

O'Connor's Emily grabbed me immediately, an intellectually curious woman happy to be in her home, moved by the wilds of nature and the passions of the heart. She hovers in the k
May 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ada Concannon, the eldest of 7 children, possesses an energetic zest for life that was unappreciated by her previous employer; upon being demoted to scullery maid she decides to seek her fortune elsewhere, taking a passage on the boat to New England where her Aunt Mary, Uncle Michael and a couple of not too friendly cousins reside.

She lands on her feet with a job at the Dickinson household, a family of four, with the spinster sisters Vinnie and Emily, neighbout to their somewhat gruff (he was a
Mary Lou
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel tells the story of a friendship which develops between the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson and the new Irish maid in her household, recently immigrated to America.
In all aspects it is pure delight.
Nuala Ni Chonchuir’s prose is simple and effortless. Her expertise extends across her writing on the relationship between Emily and Ada, to her descriptions of nature, the basis of Emily Dickinson’s inspiration. Even though the shocking event which befalls Ada does take over the mid section,
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Nuala O'Connor (Nuala Ni Chonchuir) writes, much as Emily Dickinson did, with an economy of words that paint a vivid and lasting picture. This book is a fictional (but clearly well researched) glimpse into one year of Emily Dickinson's life. The novel alternates between Emily's voice including her poetry and thoughts on writing, Amherst and being a recluse, and the experiences of a new Irish immigrant who works as a maid in the Dickinson house.

Even if the reader knows nothing of Emily Dickinson
Jul 22, 2017 added it
Shelves: 2017
This book made me so angry I almost threw it across the room. I am sick to death of stories where one character's rape serves as impetus for someone else's character development. Fuck Emily Dickinson and her gingerbread and caramels. ...more
While this novel is beautifully written, I wound up not enjoying it as much as I’d expected to. The pace is pretty slow, and honestly, I’m tired of rape being used as a plot device. There are a number of historical novels out there that deal with this same exact storyline, but the only difference is that this one is about Emily Dickinson’s servant. Not much else about the class differences and oppression of women via sexual violence is said in this novel that hasn’t been said before. Again, I do ...more
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best
Nuala brilliantly captures the 19th century atmosphere in the home of Emily Dickenson, the poet, and her relationships with her sister in law and her new Irish maid.

Her writing is particularly tender in the observation of the small details.

The rape scene is horrific but is signalled well ahead of the incident.

Olga Miret
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A book to be enjoyed slowly and savored like the sweets the poet liked so much Thanks to Net Galley for providing me a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for a review.
I spent a year at Mount Holyoke College and visited Amherst often. And one of the first places I went to was for a visit to the house and museum of Emily Dickinson (and I was living at Dickinson House at Mount Holyoke, where the Centre for Women’s Studies resides).
I’ve always been intrigued by Emily Dickinson and this nov
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Written by Irish author Nuala O’Connor, Miss Emily introduces an Irish character. Spunky and rebellious, Ada leaves her home in Ireland for the distant shores of Massachusetts and lands a job in the Dickinson household, where she and the reclusive daughter of the family bond over baking and become unlikely friends. Alternating chapters tell the story from each woman’s viewpoint, which heightens the contrast between the two characters.

Emily Dickinson provides rich material for any author – a fey
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Despite my misgivings I quite enjoyed this book.

A young girl from Ireland goes to America to be a housekeeper for an eccentric family, the daughter at least.

Trouble ensues for Irish girl, Ada, and Emily, the daughter, who'd found a friend in her, fights her family to save her.

Worth a read, quite surprised I enjoyed it.
Donna Parker
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I dreamed
I read
I danced
I sang
I loved
was loved
My mind full of me
Until youth ran from me
~D. Parker

Have you ever had one of those odd weeks, where you had to choose from odd choices? I did, and it seemed as though my viewing and reading, though vastly different, all had a common theme, at least, in my mind: choices.

Gone Girl. Mesmerizing, mostly due to Rosamund Pike’s luminously disturbing p
Amy Coles
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
***3.5/5 stars

Miss Emily is a story both beautifully simplistic and plainly genuine.
For a book that lacks in the epic action department, I found myself quite invested from the first page. The simple language in which it is written makes Miss Emily an easy read (for a story taking place in the 1800’s), and the shortness of it being 239 pages helps encourage binge reading. The alternating chapters written from Emily Dickenson’s point of view intrigued me the most. O’Connor did a beautiful job of r
Melissa I
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-read, favorites
This wasn't read without frustration. Not at all because of the book, but because the DRC lagged and froze throughout and stole so much of the enjoyment away. I'm definitely grabbing a copy of this as soon as I can and would be thrilled to read it again without interruption.

I adored Emily in this story and I cherish this time period. How people spoke and acted. I feel the same with Jane Eyre. Love Love Love.

I do so wish there had been more of Emily's poetry in this story which I felt certain t
I won a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of the publishers. My full review of the novel can be found on my blog,

Miss Emily was an interesting novel about Emily Dickenson’s friendship with her family’s new maid, Ada Concannon, recently arrived to the United States from Ireland. It’s an interesting friendship as Ada is young, outspoken, and vivacious for life whereas Emily is older and much more introverted, contented with her tho
Angie Reisetter
Jul 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: firstreads
The chapters in this lovely story alternate between the voice of Emily Dickinson and her fictional Irish maid, Ada Concannon. Their voices feel authentic for the most part, and their relationship brings out their best characteristics. Also, the historical details of Emily Dickinson's Amherst, her family, and her relationship with her sister=in-law Susan Dickinson are wonderful.

But I must say that the plot launched into a dramatic adventure halfway through that was wholly unexpected and shone the
Johnny D
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A brilliantly conceived story spanning approximately a year balanced between narratives provide by the privileged New England life of Emily Dickinson and a year in the life of an 18 year old serving girl, Ada Concannon. Ada, we first meet, leisurely floating in the Liffey to the consternation of her sister who she is accompanying to work in the local 'Big House' in rural Dublin. What follows is a captivating journey through the worlds of young Ada and Miss Emily who is twice Ada's age but due to ...more
Jan 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
The American debut of an award-winning Irish writer that brings to life Emily Dickinson and will enthrall fans of Longbourn and Mrs. Poe

Nuala O’Connor’s enchanting American debut novel, Miss Emily, reimagines the private life of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most beloved poets, through her own voice and through the eyes of her family’s Irish maid.

Eighteen-year-old Ada Concannon has just been hired by the respected but eccentric Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts. Despite their diff
Kristi Richardson
“And if I stay at home, I can easily protect myself. I am in the habit of this house, and it is in the habit of me. We mourn each other when we are apart. And so it is folly to separate often.”

“Miss Emily” by Nuala O’Connor is the story of two women. Emily Dickinson and her servant girl Ada Concannon. Emily as most know is a recluse and her life is much the same until Ada arrives fresh off the boat from Ireland to capture Emily’s heart and long for Ada’s spirit.

The chapter’s are split between A
Terry Tyler
Mar 04, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm in two minds about this book ~ I started out expecting to be very impressed, and, when I wasn't completely captivated, wondered if my inability to appreciate it said more about me than the book. There is no doubt that this novel is beautifully written, but although I was aware of this and, on occasion, read passages more than once to enjoy the words themselves, I didn't feel particularly compelled to read it. After I'd finished it I had a look at the reviews on, where there are mo ...more
May 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Emily Dickinson... Love, love, love!!! What more can I say. Reading a story about the great Emily Dickinson can't go wrong. Nuala O'Connor certainly does not disappoint and pays homage beautifully to Emily. This story is told from the perspective of Emily and one of the house employees - Ada. Ada comes from Ireland to Boston in search of employment and to seek better opportunity than her family has had. Her uncle finds her work at the Dickinson home in Amherst. It is there that Ada and Emily bec ...more
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a Mt. Holyoke grad I was eager to read this book. I was not disappointed! O'Connor clearly did her research because the voice of Emily rings true. From her cadence to her poetic descriptions of the natural world around her. The novel alternates between Emily and her Irish maid Ada. Ada's voice is completely different than Emily's but just as engaging. A young woman who leaves Ireland to make her way in the New World, Ada ends up as a maid of all work in the Dickinson's household. She and Emil ...more
Ray Palen
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
The most striking feature of this charming novel is that it finally reveals Emily Dickinson as a real person (albeit a fictionalized version). MISS EMILY takes us into the Dickinson household and depicts a young woman destined for spinsterhood who is obsessed with the color white and increasingly afraid of leaving her home.

This all changes when a new maid named Ada comes into the Dickinson household. She is a young woman straight off the boat from Ireland and her and Emily immediately hit it off
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
What may first appear to be a simple and largely known story of the life of Emily Dickinson living at home in Amherst with her parents and sister, next door to her brother and beloved sister-in-law turns into a more complicated story with the introduction of her Irish maid, Ada. Ada's experiences of poverty in Ireland, immigration to the US, and her life as a young woman on her own and a maid in the Dickinson household give a fresh perspective to the story of the brilliant and extremely idiosync ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a fictional story about the poet, Emily Dickinson, her family, and an Irish immigrant and servant in their home, Ada. Ada is a brave teenager, who travels to Amherst from her native home in Ireland. She does have family, a dear aunt and uncle there in Amherst, though. Ada is sharp, fast thinking, and a hard working young woman. Emily adores her, and despite their differences in societal standing, they becomes good friends. There is plenty of imagined conversation here between Ada and Emi ...more
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Uncorrected and Unpublished Proofs for Review

Ada Concannon finds herself far from home in Ireland living in Amherst, Massachusetts with her aunt and uncle wanting a new life. She is lucky to find a job one her first day as a maid for the eccentric Dickerson family.

She ends up befriending Emily the eldest daughter despite their ages and social status. Emily helps her find her place in the new setting while Ada gives her the freedom to write.

It is about a friendship that goes beyond class and bein
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
May we all find a boss like Miss Emily

Ada says goodbye to Ireland, and heads to America where she finds job as a maid. Although, most of the family is quite reserved, Miss Emily, the shyest of the patrons, takes interest in Ada. She considers her a friend. Helping her find a place to stay and even consoling her after a family loss. But what will happen when a crime turns everyone against Ada? Will Emily still stand up for her?

Not only did O'Connor write a superb book, with the proper dialect tha
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Nuala O’Connor AKA Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin, Ireland, she lives in East Galway. Her fifth short story collection Joyride to Jupiter was published by New Island in June 2017. Penguin USA, Penguin Canada and Sandstone (UK) published Nuala’s third novel, Miss Emily, about the poet Emily Dickinson and her Irish maid. Miss Emily was shortlisted for the Bord Gáis Energy Eason Book Club Nove ...more

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