The Raven's Bride

A while ago I posted a review of book I read back in 2007 but wanted to mention on this blog because it was a charming tale (and I was in the mood to write about something light). The book I mentioned was Becky by Lenore Hart.  In recalling how much I enjoyed that book, I did a little web search of Ms. Hart and found she had released another book - also dealing with a fictionalized version of historic characters but this time focusing on Edgar Allan Poe. I secreted the title away in my mind to pick up in the future, so imagine my surprise when on my very next trip to the library, Hart's book was facing me from the front of the New Fiction shelf!

The Raven's Bride is the story of Virginia "Sissy" Clemm, first cousin to Edgar Allan Poe who later becomes his wife.  The story follows young Sissy who is charmed by her cousin at a very early age and weds him when she was just 13 and he 27.  As a reader it was odd to think about this relationship in modern context, but Hart writes in such a way that Sissy's feelings for Edgar and her intellectual attraction to him seem quite natural.  Despite her youth, she comes across as very mature and her relationship with the moody writer makes for a very interesting story.

Hart ties Edgar's relationship to Sissy with the inspirations for his most famous works and paints a believable picture of what their life may have looked like.  Granted, the story of Poe's life is a tragic one.  Plagued with alcoholism and financial instability, Edgar and Sissy walk a rocky and troubled road.   Sissy's health also fails and though she and Edgar don't have long together, Hart weaves in a bit of the supernatural in a way that is both a positive spin to the story and a tribute to Poe's darker tendencies.

In the author's note, Lenore Hart reveals that her own name is taken from Poe's most famous poem and her admiration for him is shown in her dedication to detail regarding the life of the master writer.  The Raven's Bride is an unique and original story and acts as a great companion work to those seeking to learn more about the lives of Edgar Allan Poe and his lesser known wife.

5 Response to "The Raven's Bride"

  1. Undine says:
    August 30, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    The problem with "Raven's Bride" is that great parts of it were lifted wholesale from a 1956 novel about Virginia, Cothburn O'Neal's "The Very Young Mrs. Poe." I wrote about these similarities on several posts on my blog (I have the link to my main essay on the subject below,) but if you're interested, I recommend that you read both books together, if you can find a copy of the O'Neal novel. It's really the most blatant case of plagiarism I've ever seen.

  2. Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic says:
    August 30, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    Very interesting. I look forward to a future review.

  3. lisa :) says:
    August 31, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    Hi Undine - I was previously unaware of O'Neal's novel so thank you for alerting me to the issue. I was able to find an interview with Lenore Hart (here) in which she compares and contrasts her own work with The Very Young Mrs. Poe. She claims that she read only biographies before composing her first draft and then embarking on the study of other fictional works about Virginia Clem Poe. I really can't attest to how much was taken from biography versus how much may have been added or influenced in Hart's later drafts by O'Neal's descriptions. Interestingly enough, what I most enjoyed about Hart's take on the story was the fact that it was told directly from Virginia's perspective and the element of the supernatural. I'm curious about your opinion on Hart's comments in the interview and I will have to seek out The Very Young Mrs. Poe to form a more solid opinion on the issue.

    Alexis - Does this persuade you to want to read either or both book(s)?

  4. Anonymous Says:
    August 31, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    This makes me want to read Raven's Bride AND The Very Young Mrs. Poe. Poe is someone I'm fascinated with anyway and it would be a treat to find out more about the woman whom he loved and inspired him.

  5. Anonymous Says:
    September 2, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    Both books sound interesting, to be honest, but it's a shame they are so similar. The Raven bride is certainly a better title, though.

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