Wednesday, August 3, 2016

2016 #4: The Poe Shadow (Matthew Pearl)

The Poe ShadowThe Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pearl's The Dante Club is a favorite, so I had looked forward to reading this. I found the historical note at the end to be the most interesting part of the book. The narrative is uneven--it floats in and out of a nineteenth-century literary style, and I found both the narrator and Duponte to be tiresome and self-involved characters. "Bonjour" is definitely the best female character, but she fizzles out by the end. Perhaps there are too many "unknowns" in the actual historical accounts of Poe's death to make the book convincing. I felt that Pearl was trying not to take the same sorts of liberties he did in The Dante Club--fair enough. The entire book read like a struggle, however, between character development and interpolation of history. The plot twists seem to come out of nowhere (which, while that can be a boon, gets tiresome when it happens consistently) and characters are introduced but hardly developed so that one has a hard time keeping track of who has done what. Still, the book reflects a lot of Pearl's gifts as a writer--he does manage to combine wit with drama in a way few modern authors can. Having had such vastly different reactions to The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow, I am now eager to read The Last Dickens, because I do enjoy Pearl's writing on the whole. While the book was not a favorite, I'm glad I read it.