By Laura McNeal
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On a bleak January day in 1845, a poet who had been confined to her room for four years by recurrent illness received a letter from a writer she secretly idolized but had never seen. “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,” Robert Browning wrote, “and I love you too.”
Elizabeth Barrett was ecstatic. She was famous for her poetry but completely cut off from the kind of international travel that Browning used to fuel his obscure, unsuccessful, innovative poems, one of which was written from a murderer’s point of view. They began an affectionate correspondence, but Elizabeth kept delaying a visit. What would happen when he saw her in person? What was Robert really like? Could she persuade her father and brothers that he was honorable, even though she had never met his family? And what would happen if she gave in to Robert’s wild proposal that they go to Italy and see if the sun could cure her?
McNeal brilliantly tells the story of how Robert and Elizabeth fell in love with each other’s words and shocked her conservative, close-knit family and the literary world. Sensitively and lyrically written, as rich as the lovers' own poetry, The Swan's Nest will sweep up readers in the triumphant story of two people forced to choose between a safe, stable life and the love they felt for each other.
“Let me count the ways I love The Swan’s Nest: as a transporting romance, as a meticulous recreation of history, as a compelling examination of social hierarchies, and as an expose of the evil that can lurk behind fortunes. It’s a bold feat to enter the minds of geniuses, but Barrett and Browning, as well as the wonderful cast of supporting characters, are as believable as they are beautifully written. Laura McNeal has constructed a gorgeous, faithful, and gripping rendering of poetry’s most enduring love story.”Nina de Gramont, author of international bestseller The Christie Affair
“What a lovely, lyrical novel this is! Tender in its sympathies, meticulous in its research, and mercifully attentive to the fraught conditions of love, loneliness, and loss, it seems like an antidote to so much contemporary fiction. The restorative romance and marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning is familiar to many readers of British poetry, but Laura McNeal has made it feel so new and fresh and nourishing, like a sea breeze from the West Indies cleansing away the soot and smoke of 19th century London.”Ron Hansen, author of The Kid
“Laura McNeal is one of my favorite writers and The Swan’s Nest is a stunning accomplishment. Assiduously researched, gorgeously brought to life, this literary love story will keep you up all night.”Lily King, author of Five Tuesdays in Winter
“Compelling, convincing and richly woven, The Swan’s Nest conjures the lives of two legendary poets with true drama and nuance. In McNeal’s talented hands, we are intimately drawn into the age the Barrett-Browning’s lived and loved in, with all of its cultural complexity; into the thorniness of well-meaning but destructive families, and into the fascinating and evocative entanglement of two peerless minds. Gorgeous and provocative storytelling. “Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun
- On Sale
- Mar 12, 2024
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Algonquin Books