This is the book to read this summer if you're an Emily Dickinson enthusiast.
William Nicholson, a successful screenwriter and playwright, calls his novel “a love letter to the poet Emily Dickinson.” It's a celebration of her traits as a reclusive eccentric famous for her fractured, unconventional poems about love, death and immortality.
"Amherst" moves between two parallel time periods. It tells two parallel life stories about the joys and dangers of romance.
There is a contemporary protagonist, Alice Dickinson, who is a fledgling screenwriter researching the life of the poet for a film that she hopes to make. She visits Amherst to get original material and discovers evidence of an illicit romance that existed between Emily Dickinson’s brother Austin Dickinson and a woman half his age, Mabel Loomis Todd. Their torrid affair is well documented in local archives and Alice Dickinson believes it will provide the necessary point of view for her film.
Alice Dickinson’s search is helped by a local academic, himself an expert in the work of the poet. She engages in her own torrid love affair with him, echoing in so many aspects the earlier, historical one.
Both stories are interspersed with Emily Dickinson’s poems. The book provides readers with aspects of the life of the poet perhaps little known until now.
Nicholson’s prose is written with the brevity of a screenwriter, and the poems and the discussions surrounding them will keep a keen Emily Dickinson admirer reading.