The Librarian’s Cellar: MISS EMILY

Nuala O’Connor’s latest novel, Miss Emily offers a compelling storyline that unfolds with an unlikely friendship developing between a young Irish girl, Ada Concannon, eighteen years-old, and just emigrated from Ireland, and the serious, reclusive wordsmith, Emily Dickinson.

Fiction enriched by a factual, female legend of poetry, the novel is as precise as I would imagine the Dickinson character to be – with the depth of Emily’s intelligence and empathy secreting gently as the intertwining tale of the two women emerges. While Ada is brave, leaving her family and everything she knows to cross the world for a better life, Emily remains stilted in her self-imposed seclusion, rarely leaving the house, and suffering much anxiety when she does. As Ada’s fate creeps ominously closer, through a myriad of the familiar class divide of the era, O’Connor delves deep into the relational side of not just the friendship of the main characters, but also of Dickinson’s tender affection for her sister-in-law, Sue…and the evidence there of perhaps another type of yearning…

Beautifully written, and attentive to detail of the customs, culture and indeed, the food and domestic matters of the time, as the story grows darker, cruel and [almost] tragic for Ada, but for the intervention of Emily, we can glimpse the strength of not one, but two women trapped perhaps in the confines of their time…and of course, particularly in the knowing of Emily’s well documented fate, you can’t help wonder, what if…

A note on the cover: While the artwork is actually very good, I am ever curious as to why so many publishers choose to go with covers that depict headless women. What is that? Seriously? Can anyone explain the reason for it?

One thought on “The Librarian’s Cellar: MISS EMILY

  1. […] Nuala O’Connor, Penguin USA, Penguin Canada and Sandstone (UK) published Nuala’s third novel, Miss Emily, about the poet Emily Dickinson and her Irish maid, in summer […]

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