[Review] Emily’s House by Amy Belding Brown

Publisher and Publication Date: Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House. August 3, 2021.
Genre: Biographical fiction. Historical fiction.
Pages: 384.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of biographical and historical fiction.
Rating: Excellent.

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Amherst, Massachusetts, 1869.

Margaret Maher was born in County Tipperary, Ireland but has lived in America for several years. Margaret had planned to move to California and own a boarding house. Her two brothers have already relocated to California. Margaret looked forward to the adventure of a new place. Mr. Edward Dickinson came to visit her an offered her a job as housemaid in his home. He told her he’d pay double what she was already making. He is assertive. His offer is enticing. But her mind had been made up. She decided to take the job temporary and earn more money for her trip.
Mr. Dickinson is a persuasive man. Meanwhile, Margaret settles to the routine of her duties. She becomes comfortable with the family members. She and Emily Dickinson become accustomed to one another.

Emily’s House is the story of Margaret Maher and her position both as maid and friend to Emily Dickinson. It is through Margaret’s eyes I learn about the woman, Emily, who became the remarkable poet.

My Thoughts:

I pre-ordered Emily’s House when I first heard about it.
I am excited to share this review because I love this story!

Themes in the story: circle of life, sacrifice, honor, conformity, wisdom, trust, grief, hope, charity, gratitude, compassion, acceptance, and kindness.

Several reasons why I love Emily’s House:
1. I learned about the culture and language differences between Americans and Irish immigrants. For example, the differences in how funerals are arranged.
2. And speaking of language, I learned a few new words. Banshee. Eejit. and Quare.
3. This is the third book I’ve read recently with a subtopic of Irish Independence.
4. I learned through Margaret that a maid’s duties are not the only hardship. How they deal with the differences and prejudices against them for not only being Irish but of a lower socio-economic class than who they work for.
5. The house is a character in the book. Sometimes authors use an object, like a house, and it is another character in the story.
6. I have not read another book about Emily Dickinson. I have read her poetry. But not a nonfiction or historical fiction book about her. I feel better acquainted with her personality. She comes across as an intelligent, sensitive, introverted type person. She feels things and views things on a deeper level than most people. I do not see her as strange but gifted.
7. Emily’s House is the story about how women were treated and viewed in the 19th century.
8. I love Margaret. She is a perfect character to tell me about Emily, the Dickinson family, life in 19th century Amherst, Irish immigrants, the job as a house maid, and a woman during this era. She has common sense, wisdom, humor, subtle sarcasm, a tender heart, and a little spark in her temperament that makes me smile.
9. Sometimes in a fiction story there is a pause or break in the main storyline. Something extra is added to the whole of the story that I didn’t know was there. I love this form of writing. It is like getting an extra Christmas package that was at first unseen.
10. The story is dual time periods. But not much time is spent in the year 1916. Most of the story is 1869 and moves forward 30 years.
11. Grief. There is not a time limit for grief. Grief is felt differently by people because we are all individuals. Grief is a strong theme in Emily’s House.
12. Emily’s House reminds me there are different types of love and different levels of love. Love is not always sexualized. It is a sacrificial love. It is compassion and warmth. It is tenderness and hope. It is commitment to the end.

Favorite quotes:
“Emily had a habit of coming into a room without making a sound.” Page 33.
“March is fickle as the Faeries.” Page 69.
“Eternity is behind us and there’s immortality to come. But for now we have the bliss of memory.” Page 357.


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