Monday, September 23, 2013

Nobody's Secret

Emily Dickinson, sleuth? It's a concept Michaela MacColl pulls off with surprising effectiveness. In this mystery, teenage Emily Dickinson is years away from housebound spinsterdom (albeit brilliant, poetical housebound spinsterdom.) She's a thoughtful, engaging teenage girl who takes chances, strains against the confines of her respectable upbringing, and finds herself determined to discover the murderer of a young man she meets one day in the meadow, a man who introduces himself as "Nobody." To which, of course, Emily responds, "I'm Nobody too."  The author deftly weaves pieces of Dickinson's poetry into the text of the novel (which is not written in verse), and I found myself turning the pages to see how it all would end. Notes at the back of the book provide a series of interesting details about the real Emily Dickinson and each chapter heading is linked to a line or two of Dickinson poetry. In the pages between, Emily seeks first the identity of Nobody--and there's a great scene when she goes to view his unclaimed body laid out in the local church--then the reason for his untimely demise.

Fast and fun, this book left me thinking of Emily Dickinson as the Victorian Nancy Drew.

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