A normalizing portrait of one of Western literature’s most enigmatic poets.
Having previously examined the life of Jazz Age poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (A Girl Called Vincent, 2016), Goddu here turns the spotlight on an even larger American literary figure, Emily Dickinson. Known widely for her tight cryptic verses published primarily following her death, Dickinson is often viewed as a sort of "madwoman in the attic," biographers zeroing in on her particular manner of dress and preference, particularly later in life, for staying home and limiting her social interactions. Much of Goddu’s account seeks to redeem that portrayal, focusing on exceptional forces throughout Dickinson’s life that contributed to her artistry. She makes much of Dickinson’s Puritan heritage and education; Dickinson was never at a want for money and, thanks to her father’s prominence as a U.S. Congressman, was at the forefront of Amherst intellectual society. The author makes the compelling case that with Dickinson’s unique talents—including learning to play piano at age 2—frail health, and proclivity for intense relationships with kin and friends, she had little reason to leave the house. Through Dickinson’s love for nature, science, and reading, worlds opened. Archival photographs enhance the telling.
With select poems, revealing passages from letters, and a richly detailed narrative, this thorough study is sure to entice middle-grade readers to explore one of the 19th century’s greatest poets. (timeline, notes, bibliography) (Biography. 10-14)