Madly, Deeply is a Young Adult retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem Annabell Lee. I immediately loved and was interested in the idea of a Poe retelling, so when I got the chance to review an ARC of it, I was very excited. I decided that I really wanted to experience this retelling in all of its glory, so I went ahead and read the poem before reading the book. I think that I probably, at one point or another, had previously read it, but I didn’t remember anything about it and wanted to be fully informed of what the book was based on before starting it. Well…after reading it, I think that I actually would’ve preferred to have read the book before the poem. First of all, Crouch actually includes the stanzas of the poem in her book as openers to each section. So you’re not missing out on the poem experience if you just decide to read the book first. And also, if you’re going into this book knowing absolutely nothing about the original work at all, reading the poem is going to kind of “spoil” you on a major thing that happens in the book. It’s not like it’s some huge secret, because since it’s a Poe retelling, you kind of already know that it’s not going to be a super happy-go-lucky type of story, but I do think that it actually might add something the story if, have you not already read the poem, you were to read this book without doing prior research.
Well, now that I’ve read the poem and read the book, I can say that I think Crouch did a great job translating the story into a novelization. The dramatic and gothic-like atmosphere of the poem is perfectly apparent in Madly, Deeply, and I thought that her additions to the tale were bold and interesting. I really enjoyed the writing style, with its eeriness and lyricality that were strongly reminiscent of the poem.
I know that it’s a retelling, so things are bound to be changed a little by the author, but one thing that was changed sort of bothered me. There’s a part in the poem were these “heavenly beings” come into play but, in the book, that part is taken by a raven. First of all…a raven, really? I mean, that’s kind of on the nose when you’re talking about Poe. But, also, it was just confusing. I had trouble believing that what went down with the raven was realistic, and I wish that Crouch had given more of an explanation as to why it even happened. The poem explains it, but the book doesn’t, so we’re kind of left wondering, “Ummm…what’s with that raven? Like, did it have rabies or something?”
But I did like another change that she made — giving the speaker of the poem a sister and making her an integral part of the story. I really liked the sister’s character and her relationship to Annaleigh throughout the book. I liked that their family had some backstory and I thought that Crouch gave the whole thing a really interesting twist with the addition of Mary and everything about her.
What I wasn’t so crazy about with Madly, Deeply was the lack of world building and the shallowness of the main characters. Because of the lack of description about the setting in this book, I had a lot of trouble picturing where this story took place. In my mind, because of the style of the book, I was almost picturing it in a Wuthering Heights-type setting because of how eery it was…but Poe was a New Englander in the early 19th century. I just wish that Crouch had given a bit more detail when it came to the buildings, area, and time period so that I could’ve better pictured it all.
I also wish that Anna and William’s characters would’ve been more fleshed out. I think that it was partially because it was such a short book, but I had a lot of trouble connecting with these characters and understanding their love of each other. We’re sort of thrown into the middle of their romance, and everything happens so quickly in the first half of the book that I was sort of left floundering without a real basis of a connection to either of them. Their love just didn’t seem realistic, because even though we were told with really pretty words that they loved each other so much, it was hard to truly believe in it without being shown.
Ultimately, I did enjoy reading this story. The writing was beautiful, the story was enchanting, and I loved the liberties that Crouch took with Poe’s original poem. Madly, Deeply fully maintains the idea of what Poe created, yet turns it into a gorgeously creepy love story with an intriguing side character and unique twist that makes this book into something special. Even though there were some problems that stopped me from being able to enjoy it as much as I wanted to, I’d still recommend this book to Poe enthusiasts and readers who appreciate well-written gothic atmospheres.