Sunday, February 15, 2015

Amherst - William Nicholson

William Nicholson
Simon & Schuster, Feb 10 2015, $26.00
ISBN: 9781476740409

Wannabe screenwriter Alice Dickinson finds information on the nineteenth century married brother of Emily Dickinson.  She leaves her English flat traveling to Amherst, Massachusetts to learn more about then fiftyish Austin’s affair with his married neighbor; twenty-something Mabel Loomis Todd.  Alice plans to write a script on the illicit duo abetted by Emily the enabler whose home served as the rendezvous haven between her sibling and a professor’s spouse.  As Emily and Mabel get to know each other, they also connect in a way that survives the death of the poetess.

Friends arrange for Alice to reside at the home of Professor Nick Crocker.  They soon begin a tryst that mirrors the older man younger woman entanglement of whom the visiting Englishwoman is researching.

The absorbing historical subplot provides captivating glimpses into a little known part of the late poetess’ life with the addition of written documents augmenting this segue but also slowing down the pacing.  The present day tryst comes across as intrusive since readers want more Emily, Austin and Mabel, and much less Alice and Nick.

Harriet Klausner

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