Bookmarks Magazine's Reviews > The Passages of H. M.: A Novel of Herman Melville

The Passages of H. M. by Jay Parini
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Feb 08, 2011

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bookshelves: mar-apr-2011

Herman Melville's tormented soul comes to life through the prose of his wife, Lizzie, about whom very little is known in real life but who comes across as "a marvelous creation, a smoldering prisoner of bitterness and devotion, resentment and affection" (Washington Post). Any fictionalized biography of an elusive writer such as Herman Melville is certain to generate some controversy. Some critics found Parini's version of Melville's inner musings to be too much guesswork, although this may amount to a criticism of the genre as a whole. Most reviewers agreed, however, that Parini remains faithful to what facts we know of Melville and that Melville's life told through his wife's eyes renders the writer human and accessible, if sometimes robbed of drama. While some readers may prefer to intuit Melville's mind from the writer's own inspired works of fiction, others will find The Passages of H.M. to be a fine, insightful work of historical biography. This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

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