Nikki Amdur
October 18, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

If Jane Austen has hit it big, can Emily Dickinson be far behind? Arguably America’s greatest poet, the ”Nun of Amherst” lived a reclusive New England life, publishing nothing during her 55 years and leaving fans clueless about the source of the extraordinary passion that illuminated her work. Judith Farr makes a clever attempt to fill in the blanks with the novel, I Never Came to You in White, which reveals the young poet through letters to schoolgirl chums and correspondence between her editor and a jealous writing teacher at Mount Holyoke Seminary, where, at 17, Dickinson was often in disgrace for composing ”essays that are too original,” at least in the world Farr creates. A fascinating view of the girl who yearned ”to buffet the Sea of Pleasure, where there are poems on every wave and kisses in the curl of the foam.” B+

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