"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Review of "The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson" by Jerome Charyn

Let me begin by saying this is not my typical review. On my blog, I like to post about books I can rave about, loved, would recommend to a friend to read. However, in this case, I agreed to do this review for a blog tour, had a set date, because in reading about the book first I was pretty confident I would like it. I won’t put myself in this position again. I will be changing my review policy immediately to reflect what I want my blog to be. If I don’t like a book, I would rather not tell anyone about it unless of course asked in conversation or to simply give it a low star rating on Goodreads or Amazon. I'm not a review site, but a place for authors to talk about what they are reading. So, this review, written not having finished the novel because I just couldn’t keep reading it, lists the good and the bad, I guess.

The language and wording was what I liked about this novel. Word choices reminiscent of Dickenson’s writing, albeit the lighter side of her prose enough to make it easily readable to today’s readers I suppose. “Still, I watch him in the snow, sinking into perilous terrain, rising in his burglar’s boots only to sink again & again, as if in the grip of some angel who would not leave poor Tom alone.” This sentence is one example of the description using strong vocabulary and descriptive analogies that let the reader see exactly what the writer intends, I felt. I think mr. Charyn a good descriptive writer.  

However, even being a former English major/teacher who loves Emily Dickenson, I just could not get into this book. It was the storyline and characterization where this book fell short for me, the image of Emily Dickenson that I didn’t like preventing me from getting very far into the story. What seemed like, going in, a fictional account created from non-fiction writings, once I started reading it, the way he portrayed Ms. Dickenson seemed, well wrong, a defacing of a legend. Besides Mrs. Dickenson seeming to be a rebellious-natured, boy-crazy child, the characters at the school seemed rather contrived and forced, empty skeletons of what a girl would have been like back then, and unlike Dickenson’s own rich characters.

Blog Tour web site:

Jerome Charyn's web site:

Jerome Charyn's Facebook:

Jerome Charyn's Twitter:

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson Facebook:

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson Twitter:

W.W. Norton & Company web site:

BookReporter.com's Top Books of 2010 (#52)

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.

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

1 comment:

  1. Kiki - thanks for your honest review and for hosting a stop on the blog tour.


In accordance with the new FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, Kiki Howell of An Author's Musings, would like to advise that in addition to purchasing my own books to review, I also receive books, and/or promotional materials, free of charge in return for an honest review, as do any guest reviewers.