My review of Twain's End by Lynn Cullen

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. He proceeded to write a ferocious 429-page rant about the pair, calling Isabel “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.” Twain and his daughter, Clara Clemens, then slandered Isabel in the newspapers, erasing her nearly seven years of devoted service to their family. How did Lyon go from being the beloved secretary who ran Twain’s life to a woman he was determined to destroy?

In Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen reimagines the tangled relationships between Twain, Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.

Based on Isabel Lyon’s extant diary, Twain’s writings and letters, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love, Twain’s End explores this real-life tale of doomed love.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (October 13, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476758964
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476758961

No other author or writer that I have come across can realistically capture 1907 Manhattan in the way that Lynn Cullen does. From Mrs. Poe to Twain's End, she beautifully with beguiling humor brings Samuel Clemens or as America knows him Mark Twain to life in her soon to be released novel, 'Twain's End.' 

I was lucky enough to receive a review copy from the publishing company and I knew I was in for one hell of a ride! 
You see Mark Twain is a slice of true 'Americana' but this New Yorker, never really warmed up to his novels. The last thing I wanted to do was read 'Huckleberry Finn' or 'Tom Sawyer'.  Let's just say, I had  an early college writing class incident that scarred me for life and the last thing I wanted to do was think about Mark Twain. Until, I found out Lynn Cullen was writing a novel covering certain aspects of his life. Well, after reading, 'The Creation of Eve' and later, 'Mrs. Poe,' my gut instinct said, 'Read it Kimberly' and I am grateful that I did. 

Author, Lynn Cullen, introduced me to Samuel Clemens and his two daughters Clara and Jean. Sure they were an overly protective family which was easily relatable from the page into the reader's psyche. Then, came Samuel Clemen's wife, a fragile, sickly figure who was his love, Olivia Langdon Clemens.  They had an interesting relationship and her presence is a much needed thread weaving its way throughout, 'Twain's End;' especially, when you meet Mark Twain's secretary and true confidante, Isabel Lyon. In due course, the working relationship between Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens and Isabel Lyon becomes one of complete trust. Twain keeps her by his side both professionally and personally capturing her attention with his raucous humour and wit. His temper flares when she opposes him and shows her own sense of self. Hidden underneath her professional sullen faced façade is a lonely ordinary looking woman bubbling over with simmering sensuality and attraction for the aged adored author. Isabel Lyon is such a cherished right-hand assistant to Twain, that her mother, Mrs. Lyon is quite often part of the inner circle; visiting numerous times. Isabel also works for and in close proximity to Twain’s two grown daughters, Clara and Jean Clemens. The Clemens women do not take to her right away and they have a tortured professional relationship as her years with The Clemens Family progresses.

As if this is not enough, Lynn Cullen includes friends who are a part of MarkTwain's circle, Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy which leads to an interesting love triangle storyline. Trust me, the humor, debauchery, and wit is ever present thanks to Lynn Cullen's delicious writing style.  

I don't want to give anything else away but one thing I never thought I would ever say, 'Thank you Lynn Cullen for making me like Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens!'  I highly recommend, 'Twain's End' to anyone who would like to get to know the man behind the myth!  

Twain's End will be published on October 13th, 2015 by Gallery Books. 
If you live in the US you can purchase your copy, Amazon

If you live in the UK you can purchase your copy, Amazon UK


Kevin Marsh said…
Hello Kimberly,
An interesting piece. I've never read Twain, but of course am aware of his work.
Twain's End sounds like a great work and an interesting read.
Lynn Cullen said…
I love your insightful and compelling review, Kimberly. I especially appreciate your looking at the book from the angle of a New Yorker and as someone who hadn't been enthusiastic about Twain. So many people just think of him as the homespun humorist from Hannibal when he was so much more than that. Thank you for helping to get out the word with your eloquent article.
What an insightful, well-written review! I have read the novel and now am eager to read it again!
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Kevin, Thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate the visit. I know exactly what you mean about Twain :)

Hi Lynn, I am thrilled you liked my review so much. It was my pleasure helping you out with spreading the word about Twains End . Hopefully, my review will help in a small way.

Hi Stephanie, So nice to see you here as well. I know, I want to read it again myself :)