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These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  278 ratings  ·  63 reviews
An engaging, intimate portrait of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s greatest and most-mythologized poets, that sheds new light on her groundbreaking poetry.

On August 3, 1845, young Emily Dickinson declared, “All things are ready”—and with this resolute statement, her life as a poet began. Despite spending her days almost entirely “at home” (the occupation listed on her dea
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 25th 2020 by W. W. Norton Company
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Dan Wilcox Check out Judith Farr's The Passion of Emily Dickinson for her relationship with her sister-in-law Sue.…moreCheck out Judith Farr's The Passion of Emily Dickinson for her relationship with her sister-in-law Sue.(less)

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Diane S ☔
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
Using ten pivotal moments, the author explores the life of the "at home" Emily Dickinson. From her early school days at Amherst to her early death and her life in between, her evolving talent of a poet is explored. One can follow, not only Emily, but the few people to which she had a strong connection. Her family members, her role in the family and the history of the time period in which she lived.

The Civil War plays out in the background as does the unexpected deaths of some of those she held d
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
In her Author's Note, Martha Ackmann tells of her first encounter with Emily Dickinson's poetry in high school English when she read, "After great pain, a formal feeling comes--"* Ackmann said she "woke up" and spent a lifetime trying to understand the poem and its effect on her. It's one of my favorite Dickinson poems.

Sadly, the selections in my high school American Lit textbook did nothing for me. When a college friend said he liked Dickinson, I shuddered.

It was Steve Allen's Meeting of Minds
Dec 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Two summers ago, we stopped in Amherst to see Emily Dickinson's house (as planned) and her brother Austin's house next door (unplanned). I hadn't read much of Dickinson's poetry, so that wasn't the driver, but I always felt there had to be more to her than the word "recluse" or the term "the Belle of Amherst."

As for her poems, I mostly knew a few from school lessons. The famous "I'm Nobody" resonated, but many others struck me as surpassing cryptic. My mind got hung up on the snags of those ran
Mar 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I feel somewhat of an overload of Dickinson biography. We have things down to the weather in Amherst, which is not necessarily a bad thing for placement of when Dickinson was alive, but I struggled to find the nexus between the life and the writing. The author’s goal was to provide an episodic look at what the life was like, and although she largely succeeds, I was not clear on the understanding to be gained. As Dickinson once wrote, “if it ends, it ends beyond.”
I appreciate the way that immersion in the local landscape and even in the Dickinson house itself contributes to the "feel" of this book. And Martha Ackmann's prose has been rarified, I think, by long familiarity with Dickinson. I'm grateful for the way this book selects, for the way, in fact, that it is redeeming in some small measure a practice I HATE in sports and history (Top Ten Lists). I like the non judgmental adjective "pivotal" as a principle of selection. We pivot, after all--some mor ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a delight this book is. There is so much we can’t know about Emily Dickinson, but this book, which details ten days in the life of the poet by turning archives into rich and engaging narrative, paints one of the most detailed pictures of her. The center may still be a mystery, but the outline of Emily Dickinson is clearer than ever.
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was really, really well written and I get kind of freaked out when I think about how much research was involved. I truly felt like I was there, like I could see all of this happening, and connected to Dickinson in a way I never thought I could.

I sort of assumed she’d been very lonely and sad, but that wasn’t the case. She had strong friendships and family ties and of course, her writing.

One thing I found somewhat odd was the way race was mentioned. It obviously wasn’t talked about in deta
Connor Bowman
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
While it was great to read such a detailed history of the Dickinson family and life in the 19th century, I’m disappointed to say I would not recommend this to those who want to know more about Emily Dickinson. The author makes one passing comment about Emily’s queerness, which is apparently common knowledge among Dickinson scholars. Ackman even brings up other scholars and their thoughts but makes NO mention to work that studies her queerness. There is research that strongly suggests she had a l ...more
Very good! As a follower of Emily Dickinson's poetry, this was a great insight into inspiration behind some of her verse as paired with "pivotal" moments in her life. Each chapter highlighted a specific time, event or person and the author did a researched and well-done job at developing more. There were times when I felt the author implied too much on the part of Dickinson as it was assumptions at feelings, etc. but overall very engaging and the audio book had a good narrator. The author succee ...more
Dec 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
*I won this in a GoodReads giveaway.

The author picks out ten incidents in Dickinson’s life that seem to her the most important, or most relevant to Dickinson’s poetry. The result is a sort of brief biography that covers some elements of Dickinson’s life in moving detail, and elides others.

Most moving was the ever-present death around Emily. Because the book is short, it hits home just how many people in her life died, and how frequently the deaths came. The author seems to interpret Emily’s dea
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
As the sub-title tells us, the book chronicles ten pivotal moments in Emily Dickinson’s life, ten events that the author claims were integral to her development as a poet and a person. It’s an interesting conceit for a book, rather than the usual cradle-to-grave biography, and overall I found it worked well. The author knows her subject and her research is painstaking and thorough. It’s a readable, accessible and entertaining account, accompanied by some excellent photographs, and I felt that it ...more
Mar 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
Exploring ten transformative events in the life of Emily Dickinson, from girlhood to the end of her life, Martha Ackmann travels beyond the edge of our collective cultural imagination to reverse misconceptions about the great poet and reimagine her as, yes, reclusive at times, but also ardent, fussy and daring in her own way. In a biography this short, and with a constraint of this size (just ten days, people!), some crucial moments will understandably be left out, but Ackmann's deliberate choic ...more
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
**Disclaimer** I won this ARC from a Goodreads giveaway. I wasn't required to write this review, it just seemed polite to do so after getting a free book.

I think I was enchanted
When first a sombre Girl—
I read that Foreign Lady—
The Dark—felt beautiful—

I remember falling in love with Emily Dickinson's poetry in elementary school. I had an assignment to memorize/present a poem to the class, and being my dramatic self I found and chose the longest poem from the list that I could find.

I started Ear
Sarah Giragosian
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The level of research that this biography must have involved is astounding. With careful attention to even some of the most granular details of Dickinson's life, Ackmann's portrait of Dickinson is vivid and meticulous. I came away with more insight about Dickinson's personality, her day to day life, and her poetics, as well as the important (and compelling in their own right) figures of her life, including Higginson and Helen Hunt Jackson. ...more
Dec 27, 2020 rated it liked it
A new biography of Emily Dickinson—told in ten episodes which “tell it slant.”
See full review here:
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not a straightforward biography, but ten moments/ events that contribute to the full and rich life of Emily Dickinson. There were many interesting things that were new to me.
Laura Vautour
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is an absolute treasure for any fan of Emily Dickinson. I thoroughly enjoyed the description of Emily’s Amherst, her family, her beloved home and her eventual seclusion. Here and there, the episodes of her life are accompanied or illustrated by her poems.

There was a lot about Emily that surprised me, because I had a vague idea of a secluded lady in white drifting around Amherst, Massachusetts in her usual white dress and drawn-back hair. It was a surprise to me to learn of her as a te
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Talk about the perfect role model for shelter in place! This was a wonderful introduction to Emily Dickinson’s life in Amherst and those who impacted her so deeply. Ackerman’s research was thorough but it was her clearly felt love for her subject that kept me reading. This book was a great comfort in an extremely uncomfortable time.
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways, owned
I won this book in a giveaway and I really, really liked it. A lot more than I thought I would, even. Poetry isn't really my thing and I can't say I ever knew all that much about Emily Dickinson. This book was fascinating and getting the mix of quotes by her and the words of the author together in the narrative was something I loved. Nearly everyone knows the name Emily Dickinson but to find more about her as a person was neat. Even if there were times where I can say I don't particularly like E ...more
Edward Sullivan
Ackmann crafts an engaging intimate portrait of Emily Dickinson exploring her evolving talent as a poet through ten pivotal moments in her life, from her early school days at Amherst to her early death and her life in between.
Csimplot Simplot
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book!!!
Lauren Albert
Lovely and evocative. I felt I had a better sense of who Dickinson was when I finished it.
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography
Many thanks to net galley for allowing me to have a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

These fevered days by Martha Ackmann (2020)

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise—you know!

How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one's name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!

Starting with an Emily Dickinson poem feels right when reviewing ‘These fevered days’, a creative biography by Martha Ackmann that jus
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it

For a person who personified the Interior, this book covers much of the exterior - and I was astonished both how bustling mid-19th century Amherst was, as well as the large cast of friends and relatives Emily Dickinson had in her life. I was especially intrigued by the friends and family the Dickinson's and the Alcott's had in common.

Amherst was, apparently, downright cosmopolitan and liberal with its attitudes towards women, education and the arts and scenes. I was fascinated to learn about th
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've read and studied and discussed some of Dickinson's poems--the few same ones that are mentioned in this short book as having been published during her lifetime. I didn't know much about her life, just that she was a recluse for unidentified reasons. Ackermann does a great job balancing her social circle of family, school girlfriends, and literary figures of Massachusetts through letters and the surrounding events of the day. There is a good feel for life in a very strict, church-going, upper ...more
Jul 21, 2020 rated it liked it
I usually love reading books about Emily Dickinson. I wanted to love this one. The first four chapters were so disappointing that I stopped reading for several weeks. I found the writing disjointed and the random accounts of Amherst and its residents provided no insight into the poet or her poetry. When I finally forced myself to read another chapter, I was pleased to read the section about Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers, the different versions of the second verse and which one Emily liked vs ...more
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Like author Martha Ackmann, I discovered Emily Dickinson at a young age and became obsessed. Drawing from her years teaching an Emily Dickinson seminar at Mount Holyoke and having unparalleled access to the Dickinson home, Ackmann has written a fascinating quasi-biography of Dickinson, Rather than using a chronological narrative, Ackmann focuses on ten pivotal episodes in Dickinson’s life, filling in a lot of gaps on the way.

I’ve read too many fictionalized stories about famous figures—particula
Daryl Walsh
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in two sittings over two days, and the reason, I think, is that ED's inner life of the mind partially validates my own lifelong tendency to avoid connections with people and social events. Although I cannot imagine ever living in seclusion to the extent that Emily Dickinson did, I can relate to her reasoning for doing so. The book was very profound for me because of this. There were a few moments, early in my reading of the book, when I felt the urge to dismiss it all. Why? I su ...more
Melanie Reed
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A longtime Dickinson fan I've read a number of Dickinson biographies but frankly none with as much heart as Martha Ackmann's These Fevered Days. Recently, my partner and I heard Martha Ackmann read a selection from this book at a virtual event hosted by the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst. During our many years together, my partner has known (and heard a ton about) my passion for Emily Dickinson but he had never read about her in depth. Ackmann's book was an accessible, enjoyable introduction ...more
Caroline Hedges
Feb 25, 2020 rated it liked it
When I chose this book to review for Netgalley as an ARC the blurb made me think it would be less academic and more facts woven into a story. Emily Dickinson is a perfect herione for creative, introverts everywhere and I have always been intrigued by her life but I am not a poetry reader.
This was laid out in an interesting way, the author planning knows how to present facts and has a passion and expertise on Dickinson that is easy to see. I learnt many news things about Dickinson and gained some
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Martha Ackmann, author of These Fevered Days, Curveball, and The Mercury 13, writes about women who have changed America. The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, Ackmann taught a popular seminar on Dickinson at Mount Holyoke College, and lives in western Massachusetts.

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