'The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson'

Review by Nancy (my friend)
The Secret life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn

Emily Dickinson, one of America's most beloved poets, was an unusual gal! She had impure thoughts, tried her teachers sorely, loved her father (possibly more than was healthy?), imagined sitting on the laps of many men and was the source of an amazing tale of her years in Massachusetts. It begins at Holyoke, a school for young women with the precise intent of creating new nuns, it seems. There she becomes infatuated with Tom the handyman. It was the beginning of Miss Emily's frivolous thoughts but certainly not the end. We read how she is a master baker, never published while her father was alive and how her entire family could have been the basis for many a reality show.

Emily worked hard and loved harder - in her mind only, of course as we are talking about the mid 1800's. Her father is on the Board of Amherst College. Emily has suitors, for all that she is quite small and plain and her sister is quite beautiful. She dreams of her father's law clerk, of Tom who disappeared from Holyoke, of her brother's friends at Amherst, of Tom, always of Tom. She tries so hard to fit in, but her thoughts and her poetry set her apart. She walks the town with Carol, her Newfoundland and is watched over by its citizenry. No matter what she does it is on a tight rope of never failing her father. She must not embarrass nor be the cause of gossip.

The Dickinson family is not unique in the time period we are in. Fathers ruled, mothers suffered in silence and boys were allowed to do pretty much what they wanted while sisters sat home and tried to be pretty enough and flirty enough to marry. Not the Dickinson girls. Emily and Lavinia (Vinnie) are true to mom and dad until the deaths of their parents and then remain true to each other. In what has to be one of the best endings I've read in a very long time, Emily's life comes to an end with her a blind spinster who has met Tom, the Handyman of Holyoke and her first love many times over the years. In her dreams and in real life.

This book is not not be missed! It not only tells us of the life of Emily, but of the times she lived in, her loves and hates and how they formed lasting friendships (and more) witrh some of the world's most renowned men. Wadsworth, George Gould, Samuel Bowles, Emerson and many more. She had nicknames for the all and played their darling - if only on paper and in her own thoughts. Emily was a very lonely woman, of he rown choosing and a product of her time.

Jerome Charyn's Bio:Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him "one of the most important writers in American literature."

New York Newsday hailed Charyn as "a contemporary American Balzac," and the Los Angeles Times described him as "absolutely unique among American writers."

Since the 1964 release of Charyn's first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.

Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until he left teaching in 2009.

In addition to his writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top 10 percent of players in France. Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn's book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, "The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong."

Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.

Blog Tour web site:

Jerome Charyn's web site:

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The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson Facebook:

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson Twitter:

W.W. Norton & Company web site:
http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=1722 1

Price: $14.95
ISBN: 9780393339178
Pages: 352
Release: February 14, 2011

Price: $24.95
ISBN: 9780393068566
Pages: 348
Release: February 22, 2010

Buy links:
Barnes & Noble

eBook buy links:

Amazon See Inside the Book


Mystica said…
I am really in love with your synopsis of Emily. Is there anyone out there who is organizing a giveaway of this book???
Tribute Books said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tribute Books said…
Cheryl - I'm so glad that Nancy enjoyed the book. Thanks for hosting a stop on the blog tour. For all those who would like to follow along, please hop on over to http://thesecretlifeofemilydickinson.blogspot.com/

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