Friday 4 March 2016

MISS EMILY by Nuala O'Connor

4 out of 5 stars

Fiction about poet Emily Dickinson

On Amazon UK HERE


I'm in two minds about this book ~ I started out expecting to be very impressed, and, when I wasn't completely captivated, wondered if my inability to appreciate it said more about me than the book.  There is no doubt that this novel is beautifully written, but although I was aware of this and, on occasion, read passages more than once to enjoy the words themselves, I didn't feel particularly compelled to read it.  After I'd finished it I had a look at the reviews on, where there are more and of more variation than on Amazon UK, and found that some people thought as I did ~ that there wasn't quite enough actual story to make a novel.  I didn't know much about Miss Dickinson before, and now I know that she was a recluse, liked to bake, adored words more than people and possibly felt more than friendship towards her sister-in-law.  That's kind of it.  Or perhaps that's just me.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Emily and her fictional maid, Ada.  The four stars reflect the authentic picture of domestic life at the time and the writing itself, which is delightful, but I can't say I found it memorable.  I think people who love the style of, for instance, Jane Austen, would love this, though.


  1. Good honest review. I visited Emily's homestead in Amherst and have read and love her poems. From your review sounds as if it lacks a plot or incentive to keep the reader motivated to read on. Some books don't work for me, and sometimes it's hard to pinpoint why. You've made me curious enough to read the look inside :)

    1. That's how I felt, Luccia, but I noticed that both Rosie and Olga read it too, and loved it; it just didn't quite hit the spot for me. I kept looking at the % left to see how soon I was going to finish it, which is never good! I think you might well agree with Rosie and Olga though, rather than me - I suppose it doesn't help that I knew little about Emily and have little interest in poetry!

  2. Funny, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars too and I really liked it (I must be harsher with my stars). I liked how it was quite gentle in tone with its beautiful prose (and how it gave equal weighting to Ada's story as to Emily's) but I thought there was quite a lot going on (admittedly much of it was suggested rather than being made explicit) - the family relationships, sexual double standards, the wake, the attack, the treatment of venereal disease, the love Emily had for her sister-in-law. I just felt it wrapped up a bit too neatly at the end.
    It did make me want to seek out more information about Emily too and read her poems.
    I did think it was interesting that it got so many more reviews on than the - must have been much more popular over there.

    1. Ah, for my own enjoyment I would have given it 3 or 3.5 stars, but I like to take into account how good the book actually is, because I think reviews are for readers; often I can see a book is very well written and will be loved by others, but it's just not my cup of tea! I am usually harsh with stars too - 4 will mean that I liked a book but didn't actually LOVE it, or I liked it but a few bits let it down.

      I am not at all interested in poetry, but I did think some of this was enchanting; it was just too 'slow' for me. Never fails to fascinate me how everyone sees books so differently!