Monday, November 25, 2013

The Lady and the Poet - Maeve Haran

Summary:  Set against the sumptuousness and intrigues of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, this powerful novel reveals the untold love affair between the famous poet John Donne and Ann More, the passionate woman who, against all odds, became his wife.

Ann More, fiery and spirited daughter of the Mores of Loseley House in Surrey, came to London destined for a life at the court of Queen Elizabeth and an advantageous marriage. There she encountered John Donne, the darkly attractive young poet who was secretary to her uncle, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. He was unlike any man she had ever met—angry, clever, witty, and in her eyes, insufferably arrogant and careless of women. Yet as they were thrown together, Donne opened Ann’s eyes to a new world of passion and sensuality.

But John Donne—Catholic by background in an age when it was deadly dangerous, tainted by an alluring hint of scandal—was the kind of man her status-conscious father distrusted and despised.

The Lady and the Poet tells the story of the forbidden love between one of our most admired poets and a girl who dared to rebel against her family and the conventions of her time. They gave up everything to be together and their love knew no bounds. (Image and summary from

My Review:  Haran's The Lady and the Poet tells the story of John Donne's courtship and marriage to his wife, Ann More.  Not being a lover of poetry, it took me about a third of the book before the name clicked - that yes, I had indeed heard of John Donne before, I was just unfamiliar with his poetry.  

I'm sure that had I been more familiar with Donne's work, this story would have been more compelling.  As it were, I enjoyed the story.   It was a quick read, with just enough suspense (solely pertaining to the matters of the heart) to make it difficult to put down. It was very easy to imagine myself in such constraining social and religious demands, and the fears that Ann has as to her future are very well-written.  I could easily sympathize with her and her sisters.

The only real distraction I had with the story, and this is more my own personal preference, is that Haran strives to capture the language of the time.  I understand why, but it just lies falsely to my inner ears.  The story can stand on its own, I didn't feel like it needed that particular adornment, and so it detracted a bit from my enjoyment.  But I'm picky like that.  If it's not directly called for, or if the author isn't as comfortable writing in a particular way as breathing, I don't think it suits a story.

My Rating: Two and a half stars.  That language knocked it down just a bit.

For the Sensitive Reader:  John Donne was an incredible poet, but his earlier works (a few of which are included) are quite bawdy.  There are also a few scenes I felt more comfortable skipping over -- Elizabethan England wasn't quite as prudish as Victorian England!


Nidhi Mahajan said...

I read John Donne's poetry as part of my college syllabus this year. Seems like a very interesting read to me! :)

Susan @ Reading World said...

I read this book a couple months ago. I liked it but didn't love it. I think I wanted to see the story more from Donne's POV than Ann's.


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