In How Do I Love Thee, author Nancy Moser gives us a glimpse into the life of Elizabeth Barrett. The title refers, of course, to her famous poem. Including lines like “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach,” I’ve always thought of Barrett as a passionate woman who lived a big life. Seems I didn't get that quite right.
The book opens with a housebound Barrett. In her thirties, she is already published and known for her poetry. But she is bedridden by a mysterious chronic illness that saps the energy from her. An overbearing father, whom she loves dearly, only complicates the issue. And so she has resigned herself to live life from the inside of a house.
When she strikes up an acquaintance with Robert Browning, something comes alive in her spirit. She begins to wonder if God has more for her, and if she has the strength to defy her father and find out what that is.
Moser is a master at breathing life into historical figures. She is also meticulous in her research, including a “Fact or Fiction” section in the back of each book. What you end up with is a novel that is just about as factually accurate as any biography, but much more entertaining.
How Do I Love Thee moves at a slow, languid pace, like much of Elizabeth's life. The language and details will make you feel like you have taken a step back into time and are watching the characters live out their lives. This is one to read in long, uninterrupted chunks. It’s the kind of book to enjoy on a quiet summer evening, your feet kicked up on the porch rail and a glass of sweet tea at your side.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The common thread in Nancy Moser’s novels is that everyone has a unique purpose—the trick is to find out what it is. Her genres include contemporary stories (The Good Nearby, Time Lottery, Sister Circle, John 3: 16) and historical novels that allow real women-of-history to share their life stories: Just Jane (Jane Austen), Mozart’s Sister (Nannerl Mozart), Washington's Lady (Martha Washington) and, How Do I Love Thee?(Elizabeth Barrett Browning.) You can find out more about Nancy and her books at her website.