Writer Biography Book Review: Shaggy Muses – The Dogs Who Inspired Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf by Maureen Adams

Oh, how I yearn for those 10 degrees (F) and above days during which I could walk my dog!

 
Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, and Virginia WoolfShaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf by Maureen Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was comprised of five short biographies of renowned women writers, telling their stories with an emphasis on their relationships with their dogs. This was an interesting angle, which allowed me to see even Emily Dickinson’s story in a fresh light (Out of all the profiled authors, she was the one I knew the most about). The writing is also compelling enough that even the stories about the authors who interested me less kept me engaged, although I felt the Edith Wharton section went on a little long — perhaps because Wharton struck me as somewhat spoiled, and harder to relate to than the other women.

The Emily Bronte section was my favorite. Although I’ve read Wuthering Heights several times, much of Emily’s biography was new to me, and I was intrigued by some of the similarities between her story and temperament and mine, which led me to want to read further biographies about the Bronte sisters, not to mention the rest of Charlotte’s novels. Emily Bronte’s story was also one of the darkest, revealing how she sometimes took out her anger on the dog who was so devoted to her, and I appreciated the unflattering inclusion and the way it rounded out her character.

I also found it intriguing how most of the women profiled would write about their dogs as a proxy for their own feelings, or for the things they did not feel bold enough to say outright, particularly as relates to Virginia Woolf’s love affair with a female friend. And since I was listening to this on audiobook, it was also a truly top-notch choice for when I was walking my own dog, which is when I get a lot of my book “listening” time in.

Since cats seem to be the more stereotypical writer’s pet, I’d love to see a similar volume that explores that relationship.

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