Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review: The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson

Title: The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson
Author: Jerome Charyn
Publisher: W.W. Norton and Company
Published Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-393-06856-6
Pages: 348

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review.

Jerome Charyn has been writing some of the boldest and most adventurous American fiction for over forty years. His ten-book cycle of novels of madcap New York mayor and police commissioner Isaac Sidel inspired a new generation of younger writers in America and France, where he is a national literary icon. Now, adding to his already distinguished career, Charyn gives us The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, an audacious novel about the inner imaginative world of America’s greatest poet. Channeling the devilish rhythms and ghosts of a seemingly buried literary past, Charyn has removed the mysterious veils that have long enshrouded Dickinson, revealing her passions, inner turmoil, and powerful sexuality.

About the Author:
Jerome Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award in fiction. His work has been translated into seventeen languages, including Polish, Finnish, Korean, and Greek. He lives in New York and Paris. His most recent novel, Johnny One-Eye, was also published by Norton.

My review:
When I was offered a copy of this book to review, I jumped at the chance. As an English Lit girl, I have always had a fascination with Emily Dickinson and her seemingly reclusive life. The story begins in 1848, while Emily is a student at Mount Holyoke and continues on through her life. It is a mixture of very real people that played roles in her life and a few fictional characters to add to the drama of her story. Charyn writes the book to seem as if Emily is telling her own story and finally letting the world glimpse into her mysterious life. The book is well written and lets the Emily that resides in Charyn’s mind become one that shows her passion, humor, and brilliant writing ability. It let my mind run wild with possibilities to imagine an Emily Dickinson that I had not before been privy to. Although no one can be positive on the minute details of the real character of Dickinson, this book mixed with fictional extras, brings forth a character that you hope she was and that she lived a full life that included more than the melancholy, reclusive portrait that has often been painted of her.


  1. Thanks Laura for participating in the blog tour. For those who'd like to follow along, please visit

  2. Thanks, Laura, for the thoughtful review. We've posted it over at the facebook home of The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson for our 3200 members. You are most welcome to come have a look -