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The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran

I was an English major, and I well remember studying the writings of John Donne—the poems which he wrote during the many courtships of his youth, the love the lady and the poetpoems celebrating his relationship with his wife, and the religious poetry and prose of his later years.  This novel tells the story of Donne and his beloved wife, Ann Moore.  As the novel begins, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Ann is fourteen years old, living with her grandparents in a rural area near London and awaiting the wedding of her sister Bett.  Soon Ann goes to London to live with her aunt and uncle, expecting to become one of the Queen’s ladies or to enter the marriage which her father is attempting to arrange.  Then she meets John Donne, already in his late 20s, an ironmonger’s son with a scandalous reputation.  His poetry and ambitions are not enough to make him acceptable to her father, and everyone in her family warns her against falling in love with him.  Despite many difficulties, Ann and John fall in love, and this story about of their romance ends soon after Ann’s father learns about their secret wedding.  Ann, a sympathetic character, seems modern in her belief that women should marry for love rather than for the advancement of their families and her dislike of the rivalries of the court.  Her education is extraordinary for a woman of her time.

The president of the John Donne Society calls this “a remarkable imaginative portrait.”  The author, who has studied a number of books about Donne, as well as documents relating to his life, says that Donne has been her lifelong passion.

While history does not record many facts about Ann, this story gives us a fascinating glimpse of her time period and a novel that will delight readers who enjoy historical fiction.

(Helen Snow, Information Services)


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