December 17, 2015

DNF | Twain’s End by Lynn Cullen

DNF | Twain’s End by Lynn CullenTwain's End by Lynn Cullen
Publisher: Gallery Books, October 2015
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
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From the bestselling and highly acclaimed author of Mrs. Poe comes a fictionalized imagining of the personal life of America’s most iconic writer: Mark Twain.
In March of 1909, Mark Twain cheerfully blessed the wedding of his private secretary, Isabel V. Lyon, and his business manager, Ralph Ashcroft. One month later, he fired both. He proceeded to write a ferocious 429-page rant about the pair, calling Isabel “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.” Twain and his daughter, Clara Clemens, then slandered Isabel in the newspapers, erasing her nearly seven years of devoted service to their family. How did Lyon go from being the beloved secretary who ran Twain’s life to a woman he was determined to destroy?
In Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen reimagines the tangled relationships between Twain, Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.
Based on Isabel Lyon’s extant diary, Twain’s writings and letters, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love, Twain’s End explores this real-life tale of doomed love.

I received this book for free from Library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen reimagines the tangled relationships between Twain, Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.

Based on Isabel Lyon’s extant diary, Twain’s writings and letters, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love, Twain’s End explores this real-life tale of doomed love.

 
I expected Cullen’s Twain’s End to be like her Mrs. Poe, to have the same draw and passion, to bring the characters to life with the same vivacity. 
 
She brought Twain to life, but unfortunately, in the worst way. Portrayed as a man deathly afraid of being alone, Sam Clemens was fighting a battle between the two different personalities inside him; so he chased after each skirt that flitted by. Whether this is accurate, it was upsetting. There was no sympathetic element about him, something to redeem this harsh portrayal. Instead he was…gruesome. 
 
I had no sympathy for Isabel. I tried. In the beginning, it was “well, maybe she’s young” or “may it’s first love” – that’s the intensity of her infatuation with man, even after he was openly demeaning to her. Isabel isn’t a girl, at least in the introductory chapters: she’s a full grown woman who’s put her life on hold for The King. She was irritating, whiny, and spineless. 
 
Cullen’s depiction of the women in Clemens’ life doesn’t stop there. She creates his daughter into a mean shrew, his wife another spineless but sick old woman in love with him, and Helen Keller as a giggly…fool. Even the maid is in love with him, for heaven’s sake. 
 
Again, whether this information is accurate, the lack of sympathy in Clemens’ made this just irritating. None of these characters had enough development to redeem or, at least, explain this strange infatuation. 
 
I had hoped Cullen’s narrative, which I found so fascinating in Mrs. Poe, would at least offer a redemption for Twain’s End. Instead, the book is loaded down with scenic information, overly detailed and stuffy. 
 
I wanted to love this book, but it’s heading back to the library tomorrow. 
 Stars

Posted December 17, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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