Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
**Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Publishers to review. All opinions are my own.
“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
I must admit that I know very little about Emily Dickinson, nor do I remember studying her poems in school. Because of my lack of knowledge, I was very interested in reading Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor.
Miss Emily is a fictional story about Emily Dickinson and her relationship with her maid, Ada. Although Ada is a fictitious character, the story is based on true facts about Emily Dickinson and some of her hired help.
Miss Emily goes back and forth, chapter by chapter, between a narrative from Ada, followed by one by Emily Dickinson. The author does a wonderful job of creating two different voices – short and quippy is Ada the maid, while Emily’s chapters are more eloquent and full of descriptions.
Each of these narratives are very short making this 200-paged book very quick to read.
Miss Emily is like a snapshot in the life of the Dickinson household where everyone is going about their daily routines and tasks. Ada falls in love with Daniel Bryne, but later gets into some trouble, from which Emily is forced from her seclusion to help her.
It is a story of loneliness, secrets, acceptance, and finding friendship in unlikely places.
Miss Emily is also a lot about baking. Apparently, Emily Dickinson was a great baker, and it is, she and Ada are always making the most wonderful cakes and pastries – many of which are from Ireland.
As my husband’s family is from Ireland we often make Irish Soda bread using this recipe. My sister-in-law assures me that this is authentic tasting!
Irish Soda Bread
Source: Company’s Coming: Muffins and More
4 Cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
6 Tbsp butter
2 Cups buttermilk (I use regular milk sometimes)
In a mixibg bowl, combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter until crumbly.
Add milk. Stir just enough to moisten. Turn out on a lightly floured surface.
Knead 8 – 10 times.
Put in greased 9x5x3″ loaf pan.
Bake 350 for 1 hour until browned and inserted toothpick comes out clean.
VARIATION: I always form into a flat circle and bake on a round sheet. Mark the top with a cross, as Miss Emily says, to keep the devil away!
Bake about 40 minutes at 375.
Slice and eat!
Tastes wonderful slathered in butter and jam, too!
If you are looking to learn more about the life of Emily Dickinson, I would recommend picking up a copy of Miss Emily.