The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel by Jerome Charyn  » Books  »
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  • This experience reawakened my interest in Thoreau and the other Transcendentalists and I’ve been doing reading in this area ever since
  • Emily visited some of the patients there and I found that she seemed to fit in there better than she did in the day-to-day world

    • by tfedge
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      I recently spent some time in Massachusetts where I visited the Concord museum, Sleep Hollow Cemetery, and Walden Pond. This experience reawakened my interest in Thoreau and the other Transcendentalists and I’ve been doing reading in this area ever since.

      As part of this experience I picked up a copy of “The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel” by Jerome Charyn (ISBN 978-0-393-06856-6) from my local library. Strictly speaking Dickinson wasn’t a Transcendentalist, but she nearly was. The period of her life and physical location of Amherst, Massachusetts dovetail nicely with Thoreau,


      Emerson, and the more proper Transcendentalists. Charyn’s book is a novel told in the first person from Emily Dickinson’s point-of-view. The book tells of her view of her relationship with her father, other family members, and a series of men all of whom Emily becomes passionate about, at least in her own mind. I’ve never read a biography about Emily Dickinson although I’ve read some of her poetry and have a vague knowledge about her but it seems that Charyn has followed the events of her life closely and given her an ...

      • attraction and infatuation to every man she ever met. If she meets a man she keeps him as her mental lover for the rest of her life, sometimes writing letters, sometimes writing poems, but most often calling the man to mind in a romantic fashion. A recurring image in the book was the local mental institution where her father was a director. Emily visited some of the patients there and I found that she seemed to fit in there better than she did in the day-to-day world.

        I struggled with the book at

        times. I found the book was hard to follow as it drifted into the creative, non-linear mind of Dickinson. The cover of the edition I read has a rather lurid, for the Emily Dickinson era, cover that features a silhouette of Dickinson in black with a see-through purple dress that exposes the figure and legs of Dickinson. It seemed to me that both the picture on the cover and the ongoing imaginary romances of Dickinson were a stretch that didn’t quite make it. I’d rate the book an 85% or a solid B.




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    The review was published as it's written by reviewer in July, 2011. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 1718071511600731/k2311a0718/7.18.11
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