The Raven’s Bride
We all know how sad and dreary Edgar Allan Poe’s life was, in real life and in his stories and poems. Charming and alcoholic, raised to be a gentleman but always living on the edge of dire poverty, hypersensitive and in poor health, Poe was at best a difficult man to be with and at worst, an impossibly difficult man to be in love with.
Hart’s story of Virginia “Sissy” Clemm, Edgar’s much younger cousin and eventual wife, is at times painfully realistic. Told from the first-person point of view of Sissy, we experience her joys, hopes, disappointments and fears as they come to her – and sadly, the joys and hopes disappear fairly quickly, while the disappointments pile up.
While I appreciated the excellent writing and the deep emotional presence of this novel, I found it hard to read, mainly due to the relentless misfortune that visited these poor creatures who truly found relief only in death. In truth, they loved each other dearly, but their lives were so filled with poverty and despair it is hard to say if their love helped them overcome adversity or made it more difficult to bear. It would have been easier, I think, to read a straightforward biography than to suffer through the heartache that the author has told only too well. It’s a grimly rewarding book, and certainly sheds a little sunlight on the formerly unsung heroine who was the inspiration for many of Poe’s late, lamented maidens in his poetry and stories.