Amherst: Book summary and reviews of Amherst by William Nicholson

Amherst by William Nicholson X
Amherst by William Nicholson
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Book Summary

From an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and the author of Motherland, a novel about two love affairs set in Amherst - one in the present, one in the past, and both presided over by Emily Dickinson.

Alice Dickinson, a young advertising executive in London, decides to take time off work to research her idea for a screenplay: the true story of the scandalous, adulterous love affair that took place between a young, Amherst college faculty wife, Mabel Loomis Todd, and the college's treasurer, Austin Dickinson, in the 1880s. Austin, twenty-four years Mabel's senior and married, was the brother of the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson, whose house provided the setting for Austin and Mabel's trysts.

Alice travels to Amherst, staying in the house of Nick Crocker, a married English academic in his fifties. As Alice researches Austin and Mabel's story and Emily's role in their affair, she embarks on her own affair with Nick, an affair that, of course, they both know echoes the affair that she's writing about in her screenplay.

Interspersed with Alice's complicated love story is the story of Austin and Mabel, historically accurate and meticulously recreated from their voluminous letters and diaries. Using the poems of Emily Dickinson throughout, Amherst is an exploration of the nature of passionate love, its delusions, and its glories. This novel is playful and scholarly, sexy and smart, and reminds us that the games we play when we fall in love have not changed that much over the years.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Weaving voices of the past and present, Nicholson creates an engaging, many-faceted novel that deftly explores the timeless torments of love and loneliness." - Booklist

"Both Austin and Mabel are complicated characters, and though there's nice balance between the dual narratives, one senses that Nicholson struggled with the dilemma of how to impose a fictional story onto real-life events." - Publishers Weekly

"[Nicholson's] parallel love stories hold classic appeal, while the historic aspects of the tale provide interest for those seeking "the real story" of one of America's most revered poets. " - Kirkus

"Lyric and rich, this beautiful novel presents two love affairs more than a century apart, expertly stitched together by the unseen hand of Emily Dickinson. Through a small, intimate lens the novel explores blockbuster themes of love, honesty and fidelity. It is a rare and lovely book." - Priya Parmar, author of Vanessa and Her Sisters and Exit the Actress

This information about Amherst was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

William Nicholson Author Biography

William Nicholson was born in 1948, and grew up in Sussex and Gloucestershire. He was educated at Downside School and Christ's College, Cambridge, and then joined BBC Television, where he worked as a documentary film maker. There his ambition to write, directed first into novels, was channeled into television drama. His plays for television include Shadowlands and Life Story, both of which won the BAFTA Best Television Drama award in their year; other award-winners were Sweet As You Are and The March. In 1988 he received the Royal Television Society's Writer's Award. His first play, an adaptation of Shadowlands for the stage, was Evening Standard Best Play of 1990, and went on to a Tony-award winning run on Broadway. He was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay of ...

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