Review of Nom De Plume by Carmela Ciuraru

From the publisher: 

What’s in a name?

In our “look at me” era, everyone’s a brand. Privacy now seems a quaint relic, and self-effacement is a thing of the past. Yet, as Nom de Plume reminds us, this was not always the case. Exploring the fascinating stories of more than a dozen authorial impostors across several centuries and cultures, Carmela Ciuraru plumbs the creative process and the darker, often crippling aspects of fame.

Biographies have chronicled the lives of pseudonymous authors such as Mark Twain, Isak Dinesen, and George Eliot, but never before have the stories behind many noms de plume been collected into a single volume. These are narratives of secrecy, obsession, modesty, scandal, defiance, and shame: Only through the protective guise of Lewis Carroll could a shy, half-deaf Victorian mathematician at Oxford feel free to let his imagination run wild. The “three weird sisters” (as they were called by the poet Ted Hughes) from Yorkshire–the Brontes–produced instant bestsellers that transformed them into literary icons, yet they wrote under the cloak of male authorship. Bored by her aristocratic milieu, a cigar-smoking, cross-dressing baroness rejected the rules of propriety by having sexual liaisons with men and women alike, publishing novels and plays under the name George Sand.

Grounded by research yet highly accessible and engaging, these provocative, astonishing stories reveal the complex motives of writers who harbored secret identities–sometimes playfully, sometimes with terrible anguish and tragic consequences. A wide-ranging examination of pseudonyms both familiar and obscure, Nom de Plume is part detective story, part expose, part literary history, and an absorbing psychological meditation on identity and creativity.


My Review:

Think you know about your favorite authors? Guess again! Nom de Plume offers a fascinating look at some of my favorite writers of all time, as well as a compelling introduction to some authors that I hadn’t heard of before.

Incredibly well written and just plain fun to read -each chapter is titled with some outrageous fact about the author featured in it; as I came to the end of a chapter and meant to set the book down, I found myself getting sucked into the next chapter, and then the next, and the next. I laughed, I cried, I cringed in disgust, but I just couldn’t put the book down. I even felt a little sad when I finished reading it, wishing there was more- I would love for the author to write a sequel, perhaps including some more of my favorite Noms de Plume- Saki (Hector Hugh Munro), Agatha Christie (Mary Westmacott), Ayn Rand (Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum), to name a few.

Nom de Plume is a fantastic book that I’d recommend to just about anyone. Wonderful!

Rating: 5 stars


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