Emily’s House

Berkley. Aug. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9780593199633. pap. $17.99. F
In 1869, 27-year-old Maggie Maher begins temporary work as a maid for the wealthy Dickinson family at their Amherst, MA, home. Mr. Dickinson, a lawyer and college treasurer, deems Margaret essential and offers her higher pay but also a veiled threat to her brother-in-law’s job should she leave. The eldest Dickinson, Emily, always clad in white, leaves her room only to tend to the gardens or bake gingerbread. Maggie and Emily soon form a bond, each falling in love, losing love, and grieving loss. The reclusive, eccentric Emily exercises her brilliant mind writing poetry in secret, which she asks Maggie to hide, and to burn it upon her death. Maggie spends 30 years with the Dickinsons and comforts Emily through the loss of family members. When Emily dies at age 55, Margaret makes the tough decision to go against Emily’s wishes, and preserves her poetry to be shared with the world. Brown’s (Flight of the Sparrow) prose is captivating, sprinkled with historical accuracy regarding what’s known of Emily Dickinson’s peculiar life. The characters come to life with Brown’s fictional spin and dramatic flair.
VERDICT Fans of Marie Benedict and Kate Quinn will delight in this moving story that sheds light on the life of one of literature’s most influential, yet mysterious poets.
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