Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor: Book Review

Miss Emily

Obtained: Penguin Random House, ARC
Pages: 256
Publish date: July 14, 2015
Rating: ★★★

When I heard there was going to be a historical fiction novel about Emily Dickinson, I was really excited. I know Dickinson through her work, but know little if anything about her life, so I was interested to see what Nuala O’Connor had to divulge through her research. But this novel was a little different than what I expected, and I actually liked it better in this telling.

Miss Emily tells the story of Dickinson through the eyes of her Irish maid, Ada Concannon. Despite the fact that they have different social standing, Emily and Ada become close friends. When tragedy strikes Ada, threatening not only her own life, but the reputation of the family who employs her, Emily must make the decision as to what is more important – the standing of her family, or the safety of her dear friend.

I expected this novel to be a lot more about Emily, but I actually really appreciated that the novel was mostly about Ada. Through the eyes of Ada and her own story, we see glimpses of Emily, wherein one can see the detail and research O’Connor put into writing this tale. I enjoyed the fact that O’Connor switched between narrators every chapter, and that said chapters are fairly short. It kept me entertained, along with the fact that the language was appropriate for the period, but still fairly relatable.

But I gave this novel three stars for a couple of reasons. I typically don’t read historical fiction, so when I do, I want it to be fast-paced and captivating, and I found this novel to be a little slow at the beginning. It isn’t until the tragedy happens about halfway through the novel did I start getting very intrigued with the story.

Nuala O’Connor has written a very descriptive, lovely novel that would be a great fit for your summer book club!

Miss Emily is available online at Chapters Indigo, Kobo, and Book Depository on July 14, 2015.


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