Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor

Miss Emily

Nuala O'Connor

Miss Emily reimagines the private life of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most beloved poets, through her own voice and through the eyes of her family’s Irish maid.

Start Reading….

Read Excerpt Now


Sign me up to receive news about Nuala O'Connor.

Place our blog button on your blog to let people know you are a member of this great program!

An Amazon Canada Best Book of the Year, the American debut of an award-winning Irish writer that brings to life Emily Dickinson and will enthrall fans of Longbourn and Mrs. Poe and the film A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson. 

Nuala O’Connor’s enchanting American debut novel, Miss Emily, reimagines the private life of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most beloved poets, through her own voice and through the eyes of her family’s Irish maid.

Eighteen-year-old Ada Concannon has just been hired by the respected but eccentric Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts. Despite their difference in age and the upstairs-downstairs divide, Ada strikes up a deep friendship with Miss Emily, the gifted elder daughter living a spinster’s life at home. But Emily’s passion for words begins to dominate her life. She will wear only white and avoids the world outside the Dickinson homestead. When Ada’s safety and reputation are threatened, however, Emily must face down her own demons in order to help her friend, with shocking consequences.

Advance Galley Reviews

I really enjoyed this book, but it was very slow to get in to. I think it is better to read it as just a true novel, rather than one based in reality- fans of Emily Dickinson will be disappointed, I believe, as it doesn't really go in to her life. It seems more like the author just took some quirks from Dickinson's life and then wrote the story about the maid, Ada. By the end I was very anxious to see how the story would finish, but I felt it was very slow starting out. This really is a story about the maid with some bits of Emily Dickinson thrown in to give some reference, keep that in mind if you are looking for an account of Emily's life.

The writing is good and the idea intriguing, but as a lover of Dickinson's poetry I was hoping to be drawn into Emily's character. It didn't happen. Others love the book, but it wasn't for me.

Miss Emily is Nuala O'Connor's debut novel in America. The book is a fictional story of Emily Dickson and her Irish maid Ada. This is a beautifully written book. I loved the way O'Connor writes in such a poetic way, and how she developed both Emily's and Ada's characters. The book is told from the perspective of both of the girls, alternating each chapter. The story gets a little heavy towards the middle of the book, and it caught me by surprise. I can't say much without giving away the plot, but the book has a nice happy ending and O'Connor's writing will stay with you for some days to come. Miss Emily is a gorgeously written story about female friendship. This is an excellent selection for a book club. I highly recommend it!

The chapters in this lovely story alternate between the voice of Emily Dickinson and her fictional Irish maid, Ada Concannon. Their voices feel authentic for the most part, and their relationship brings out their best characteristics. Also, the historical details of Emily Dickinson's Amherst, her family, and her relationship with her sister=in-law Susan Dickinson are wonderful. But I must say that the plot launched into a dramatic adventure halfway through that was wholly unexpected and shone the spotlight necessarily on Ada rather than Emily. I guess I wasn't expected rape and murder in a book with this description, especially since that seems to take more of a free hand with the fiction part of historical fiction than I'm usually comfortable with. It seemed unnecessary and almost annoyingly distracting. Was it a good story? Sure. Was it believable in the historical context? Uh, no. Yes, sexual assault happened at that time -- of course it did. But its aftermath and how the different characters handled it felt unlikely in several places. It felt like O'Connor was looking to fabricate the ultimate answer to why Dickinson never left the house in her later years. And she had to believe it was something traumatic, so she introduced trauma into a life that, as far as we know, had nothing of the kind. It feels like it disrespects Emily's lifestyle -- that only a trauma survivor would be allowed to live this way. All the drama felt misplaced. Okay, so I didn't like the plot. All that said, I honestly enjoyed the book. The writing style was engaging and Emily's preoccupation with words and observing the world while not quite being in it felt true. I like that in a historical novel.

I had a very hard time reading this version of Emily Dickinson's life. It was syrupy and repetitive and I finally gave up. I really enjoy Dickinson's work and was excited to try this but sadly it failed to keep this reader going. If you are a very fast reader you may be able to skim more quickly and find a redeeming story.

“And if I stay at home, I can easily protect myself. I am in the habit of this house, and it is in the habit of me. We mourn each other when we are apart. And so it is folly to separate often.” “Miss Emily” by Nuala O’Connor is the story of two women. Emily Dickinson and her servant girl Ada Concannon. Emily as most know is a recluse and her life is much the same until Ada arrives fresh off the boat from Ireland to capture Emily’s heart and long for Ada’s spirit. The chapter’s are split between Ada and Emily telling the story and I found that engaging. Ada meets a wonderful man in Daniel Byrne and Emily enjoys watching their courtship vicariously. Then tragedy strikes Ada and suddenly the world that had opened up to her is gone and her misery is palpable. Emily stands by her friend and makes sure that she will be safe and happy. This is a beautifully written book about the reclusive poet and the life of a servant. I liked the characters and even the villains were well constructed. Nuala O’Connor has a gift of capturing people in a historical perspective that is touching and has the feel of reality about it. If you are a fan of Emily Dickinson, of course you will want to read this book. I think it is for anyone who enjoys great historical fiction and this was a wonderful quick read.

Good historical fiction. Really enjoyed reading this book, however I wish more of the story was devoted to Emily Dickinson. I will admit that I do not know much about her, so I will be reading more on her in the future. I did like Ada's story. It was a good reminder of how far we have come in recognizing women's rights!

I was greatly intrigued by this novel even though I was unable to finish (too many books, too many deadlines and too little time). I will definitely try to pick up a copy when they are available so as to quench my desire of discovering how it concludes. I enjoyed the setting and the gentle but distinct nature of both Emily and Ada. This was a well written book that made for relatively easy, enjoyable reading and I would suggest it as a lovely summer read to anyone interested in historical fiction, more specifically about historical authors.

I’m a sucker for novels based on the lives of historical writers. Emily Dickinson’s Amherst is an inviting setting, and the alternating first-person voices of Emily and the family’s Irish maid, Ada Concannon, are both well realized. However, the plot soon gets mired in the melodrama of a wrong done to Ada in the Dickinson household, which results in a crisis that – you guessed it – requires the reclusive Emily to leave the house. After reading, I remained greedy for more of Emily’s inner life and poetry. There are a few glimpses here: for instance, her love of baking, and the hint that she had romantic feelings for her sister-in-law. But I suspect I’ll have to pick up a full-length biography to satisfy my interest in Emily Dickinson. (3 stars)

A great historical fiction beautifully written. Miss Emily is a book about friendship and its priorities. A wonderful book for everybody to read and enjoy.

Nuala O'Connor's MISS EMILY is an historical fiction account of Emily Dickenson and one of her imagined Irish maids, Ada. While the story is interesting and very entertaining, the emphasis seemed more on the Irish maid rather than on Emily Dickenson. I think I would have called the book MISS ADA rather than MISS EMILY...

This wasn't read without frustration. Not at all because of the story, but because the DRC lagged and froze throughout and stole so much of the enjoyment away. I'm definitely grabbing a copy of this as soon as I'm able to and would be thrilled to read it again without interruption. Still 4 stars! I adored Emily in this story and I cherish this time period. How people spoke and acted. I feel the same with Jane Eyre. Love Love Love. I do so wish there had been more of Emily's poetry in this story which I felt certain there would have been, but it wasn't like that. That absolutely didn't take away the pleasure of the story that it is, it was just different than expected. I'll head back here as soon as I'm able to get a copy to read without the frustrations, but I do recommend it because there was so much *searching for the words*....sweetness, sadness because Emily and her circumstances as well as whom she was. Some things, she was completely happy with and other people just wanted her to be different than she was. I related to that part of her and understand her feelings (I related to more things than that. I'm leaving that out, TMI), but she was still so full of positive and Joy it was a treasure to read those parts. I did miss some for the pages that wouldn't load, but enough to know I want to read it in full without interruption. I almost felt a kindred spirit with parts of her character as was written in this book. I'm stumbling around with other thoughts I want to share, but I don't want to give too much. It's a very quick read, if your copy isn't defective, so to say too much would spoil it. Thank you to the #Penguin .@FirstToRead Program for the DRC of this story. I look forward to reading it again.....

4 stars. This novel follows two narrators, Emily Dickinson and her maid, Ada. At this point in history, Emily is a fortyish spinster who lives with her parents and her younger sister. She is becoming increasingly isolated, to the point of agoraphobia, and relies on her writing and her interactions with Ada and her best friend Susan to sustain her socially. This book is short with short chapters but it is beautifully written and gives a fascinating snapshot of Emily Dickinson's life at the time. It is also interesting to have Ada's perspective and as her life takes tragic turns it demonstrates the difference between the two women even as they fully support each other. I really enjoyed the writing and the subtleness of this book.

I have to admit I branched out on this book, I do not normally read Historical Fiction. It wasn't for me. I had a hard time staying interested and then when the book took a surprising turn I didn't like I was done. However I think if you like this genre then you might like this book. Like I said I was branching out .

Lovers of Jane Austin will love this novel of period and manners as well. It is more a point of view work than one that drips with plot, but there is a significant plot incident that begins about half way through. Both of the main characters--Miss Emily and Miss Ada--are painted sympathetically, and will engage the reader. Those who are looking for a novel with a lot of action, however, may not find this the right choice. But it would be a grand story to take out under a tree with a glass of lemonade this summer. Once you read past a certain point, you won't be able to put it down. I would urge the reader to read it for a sense of the times in which Emily Dickinson lived and the place; read it, not for Miss Emily's poetry, which is used sparingly, but for its own poetry. The author has a wonderful sense of period language: ethnic language that she puts in the mouth of Ada, the Irish servant; and also the more formal and poetic language of Miss Emily. The is my favorite line: "The moon sails by in its plated gondola, the stars it's gondoliers. And all that sparkling light pushed my mind toward spring light and sun light and summer light." Enjoy.

A Good book about friendship between an employer and an employee. The two girls Emily and Ada coming from totally different backgrounds become very good friends and how Emily being the employer fulfills her duty as a loyal friend. I don't want to give any more details of the story read it to enjoy yourself.

Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor was a very pleasant imagining of Emily Dickinson's life in Amherst. As a thirty-something young woman who chooses not to be social and participate in various parties her sister-in-law, she lives her life from the familiar rooms of her parents home and quickly befriends the family's new maid, Ada Concannon. The alternating narration between Emily and Ada was pleasant and transitioned easily from chapter to chapter. It was clear that each woman enjoyed the company of the other and their friendship was not hindered by their roles as employer and employee, although Emily's brother and mother did not appear to approve of the friendship. Emily came across as a caring, sensitive soul who wanted her closest friends to be happy in all they did but was also fiercely protective of her loved ones. Ada appeared to be a strong and confident woman who took pride in the work she did for the Dickinson family. Emily showed her true strength and loyalty when Ada suffered a great injustice and went to Emily with the embarassing details of it all. Emily bravely stood by Ada as she asked her brother Austin for help and even attempted to defend Ada's reputation to her own parents, when they decided to terminate Ada's employment. Ada and Emily find themselves in a dangerous situation, in connection with Ada's injustice, and it is Emily who maintains a level head and works to save her friend Ada and Ada's love. I was very intrigued by Emily's transition to an all white wardrobe and her increasing need to remain at her family home, the Homestead. I thought Ada's lack of judgment of Emily's chosen lifestyle showed how much Ada appreciated and enjoyed the friendship Emily offered her. Both ladies were truly loyal friends to one another and, although an ocean ends up separating them, it is nice to imagine that this friendship endured. This was an enjoyable book and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction involving real people in possibly fictional situations. I am looking forward to reading more from Nuala O'Connor in the future.

Miss Emily by Nuala O'Conner tells the fictional story of Emily Dickinson and the friendship she develops with housekeeper Ada Concannon. Emily and Ada come from very different backgrounds. Emily comes from a very affluent family and prefers to stay home in the company of her family, writing her poetry, and not be part of the outside world. Ada moved from Ireland to America to find work. Unlike the rest of her family, Emily is drawn to Ada and takes to time to get to know her. I really enjoyed this book. I felt the alternating points of view added real dimensions to the story and made the charactersI received a copy from Penguin's First to Read. more fully developed. You not only see Emily through her own eyes but through Ada's as well and vice versa.

“Miss Emily” is a unique historical novel narrated in two voices: that of poet, Emily Dickinson, as well as of Ada, her newly hired Irish maid. As the relationship of mistress and servant blurs into a form of friendship within the confines of 1850’s Amherst society, the novel delves into their inner lives. This intriguing account is a fascinating look at the life and times of America’s famous reclusive poet that makes the reader want to know more about Emily’s eccentric life and her literary compulsions. Recommended!

A beautifully written novel.a peek into Emily Dickinsons family life,Emily's day to day existence &her rare &unusual friendship with Ada her family's 18 year old Irish maid,the lengths she's willing to go to protect Ada's reputation &the consequence of her acts,.Highly recommend for fans of Emily Dickinson&those who are curious about this wonderful but reclusive poet.

I knew Emily Dickinson from her poems and didn't really like her as a poet. Her poems never touched me so this book wasn't one of my "to-read". As I began reading this book I started liking O'Connor's writting more than Dickinson's. The book is written following the naration of both Emily and Ada. Reading it wasn't as easy as I would like it to be and the characters although compelling didn't have that something. O'Connor shows her capabillity as a writter but the story she writes has nothing I didn't know about. I would definitely like it to be more full (with short stories from their life that are not known. I would like the author to have done some more research before). I would give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Miss Emily is a lovely book and I want to believe that the author, Nuala O’Connor, caught the true spirit of her subject in it. Emily Dickinson rises from the pages in a very real, yet poetic way. I was captivated by the story and writing from start to finish. The characters were well drawn and the alternating voices of Emily and Ada worked well. Miss Emily made me want to become better acquainted with the life of Emily Dickinson and I think that’s a mark of a good book.

I didn’t too much cared for this book. It was a OK read that kinda gave you a glimpse of what Emily Dickinson mindset might have been during her seclusion. But in truth it kinda felt like Dickinson storyline was added just to fill out space in the novel, and turn it into someone more then your typical romance novel. You’ll get no new insight on Emily Dickinson in this book. Though it is well written and parts of it are compelling, I would just rather grab a book of Ms Dickinson poems and call it a day.

Overall enjoyable and well-written. I enjoyed the way that the story was told in two voices, often telling the same story but from differing point of view. An interesting interpretation of Emily Dickinson's life and personality.

Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor tells a story about Emily Dickinson and her family's maid Ada. The books is told in alternating chapters, jumping between Emily and Ada's perspective. Told over a time frame of about a year, this was an enjoyable read. The characters were interesting, though I found the chapters about Ada more compelling than those about Emily. Ada, a recent immigrant to the United States from Ireland, works for the Dickinson family as a maid. She is a lively girl, and her relationships with her family, other members of the community, and the Dickinson family are complex and interesting. Emily, on the other hand has social anxiety, which has been well document through history. Nuala O'Connor does a great job of looking at capturing some of the thoughts behind Emily's self imposed solitude, however her character falls a little flat. Overall this was an entertaining read I would highly recommend.

Emily Dickinson is a poet whom many of us know thanks to high school or collegiate English classes. But for all the insight we have into her personality through the words she's published, there's still an air of mystery surrounding her hermitic life. Within the pages of Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor, readers are afforded a glimpse into the life and world of the prolific poet. Emily is considered an eccentric by her neighbors as she prefers a life of solitude with her thoughts and words for company. Ada Concannon is freshly arrived to America from Ireland, eager to make her way in the world and have a different life than what she might have were she to stay at home. The two women are drawn together when Ada becomes a servant in the Dickinson household; the kitchen and baking are commonalities between the women, offering them a starting point for a friendship. With Emily suffering from agoraphobia, she lives vicariously through Ada's external life, particularly as it relates to a budding romance. When Ada is attacked by a lout, Emily is must face her fears to help aid the protection of her newest friend's reputation or bear further scrutiny from her neighbors. The prose was fitting to the time period and stations of each woman with a narrative that moved along without a drudgery that can often be found in literature of this era. Perhaps this was due to the brevity of the narrative; it could have been fleshed out a bit more to offer a more comprehensive sense of Emily and Ada. Alternating chapters with the perspectives of Emily and Ada offered two views of each character--how they saw themselves and how others saw them. This helped to develop a sense of self in the characters and foster the reader's contemplation on how society tends to value a person's self-worth. In Emily, we have the oddity of an upper class citizen and in Ada we have the stability of a devoted working class citizen. Each has their own merits and strengths, which complement one another. With a character study doused with some sexual intrigue, O'Connor shows that we haven't come too far from the past in regard to sexual attacks and victims openly discussing their ordeals. Overall, I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

MISS EMILY by Nuala O'Connor This is a tale of Emily Dickinson and the family's Irish maid Ada told in alternating chapters. This brings to light Emily's seclusion tendancies and Ada's hardships of coming to America amid prejudices against her country by a member of the Dickinson family and others. This tale is far from lighthearted, but is realistic. Prose is lyrical and poem-styled with some of Dickinson's work minimally interspersed throughout. I found the story pulled me along sometimes slowly and sometimes at a faster clip, but never was I wishing for the story to end. All the characters whether major or minor were fully fleshed out and the setting its was drawn in such a way as to be painted in words and a character in its own right. There is tragedy within these pages though if one is reading carefully one can guess at the tragic event and its consequences. Parts of this novel are not for the faint of heart though one should not let it ruin the rest of this powerful and beautifully told tale.

I really enjoy reading about this time period, and have long loved Emily Dickinson's poems. This was a great book for anyone interested in either. The writing is beautiful and imaginative. The characters are very well written and it's easy to fall into the book.

Surprisingly light tale of home-bound poet with attachment to her family's new immigrant household servant. The writing style is meant to convey the mood and sensibility of the late 1800s and the tone of Emily Dickinson's poetry and does a good job of accomplishing just that. Oddly enough, there is a violent act hidden within this frothy tale, but the book ties up all the loose ends in a nice happy way. This book provides an evening's quiet enjoyment, much as the poet's work did originally for her audience; today we read Dickinson in less concentrated forms. I received my copy from Penguin's First to Read program.

I enjoyed this fictional depiction of the time and life that Emily Dickinson lived in. The characters, Ada, Daniel, etc were well written and very much likable. The story itself was not my favorite because of the subject matter relating to Ada but that's life I guess. Sometimes times are hard on people. But I liked that it had a happy ending and painted Miss Emily as a likable, good person. The writing was beautiful, almost poetry in itself when Emily was thinking or speaking. Well written for sure.

Miss Emily is an imaginative story that is told from two points of view. Alternating chapters recount the events taking place from Emily Dickinson's and her housemaid, Ada's perspective. The story moves along at a nice pace and continues to leave the reader wondering what will happen next. The writing of the story was very well done and the reader can easily imagine themselves alongside the characters in the story. The dialog and style of writing is true to the period. This book was a nice read and a brought a new dimension to Emily Dickinson and those around her.


More to Explore

  • Becoming Belle

Copy the following link