Title: Twain’s End
Author: Lynn Cullen
Now in paperback for the first time from the national bestselling author of Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, comes TWAIN’S END (Gallery Books; June 7, 2016; Trade Paperback; $16.00), a fictional imagining of America’s iconic writer Mark Twain and the woman who knew him too well.
In March of 1909, Mark Twain cheerfully blessed the wedding of his private secretary, Isabel V. Lyon, and his business manager, Ralph Ashcroft. One month later, he fired both, wrote a ferocious 429-page rant about the pair, and then—with his daughter, Clara Clemens—slandered Isabel in the newspapers, erasing her nearly seven years of devoted service to their family.
In TWAIN’S END, Lynn Cullen “cleverly spins a mysterious, dark, tale” (Booklist) about the tangled relationship between Twain and Lyon. A silenced woman, Isabel’s loyal service and innocence were not enough to combat the slander, and she has gone down in history as the villainess who swindled Twain in his final years. She never rebutted Twain’s claims, never spoke badly of the man she called “The King,” and kept her silence until she died in 1958. How did Lyon go from being the beloved secretary who ran Twain’s life to a woman he was determined to destroy? TWAIN’S END explains.
Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain was not only an amazing author, but quite the character. Throughout his life he amassed quite a number of admirers, none more than those who were close to him- including many of his female staff. In his later years, Samuel Clemens employed Isabel Lyon as a secretary for his ailing wife. Soon, Isabel became Samuel’s constant companion and his own personal secretary. It does not take much to see that the relationship between the two has grown. However, a year before Samuel’s death, he blesses the marriage of Isabel and Ralph Ashcroft, his business manager only to besmirch their reputations one month later in an elongated written rant.
I love learning more about the lives of authors that I admire. I really didn’t know much about the man behind Mark Twain other than the fact that he piloted a riverboat and that he came in and went out along with Hailey’s comet. Lynn Cullen has taken much of her account for Twain’s End from the diary of Isabel Lyon. The writing creates a tense back and forth, cat and mouse game between Samuel and Isabel. The overall feeling that is created is tense and a little uncomfortable, especially if you would prefer to keep Mark Twain in a positive light. Isabel was quite intriguing, especially as she tried to do her best to keep herself distant from the man she knew she should not get involved with. As she became more and more entwined with the family, this became more and more difficult and eventually led Samuel to believe different about her. One of the things I found most interesting was Samuel’s relationship with his wife and daughters; I really knew nothing about Olivia, Jean, Clara and Susie. Olivia is still a little of a mystery to me, she was ailing through most of her time throughout the book, but no one seemed to know why. However, the mutual love between Samuel and Olivia was still evident even through his indiscretions. One of the most colorful characters for me was Isabel’s mother, always scheming, always putting her nose in other’s business and terribly worried about Isabel’s marriage prospects, a perfect busybody. Overall, a suspenseful, surprising and insightful tale about a different view of one of America’s greatest authors.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Lynn Cullen lives in Atlanta surrounded by her large family, and like Mark Twain, enjoys being bossed around by cats. Follow Lynn Cullen on Facebook or visit www.lynncullen.com.
Buy the book on Simon & Schuster: http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Twains-End/Lynn-Cullen/9781476758978