Reviews for Cross of Snow
"The biography Longfellow himself would have most liked to read. Absorbing the underlying message of Longfellow’s poetry, Mr. Basbanes writes about him the way a friend would, with generosity, gentleness and grace…He writes about [Fanny] the way Longfellow would have, with respect, admiration and, yes, a lover’s eye. But he is also happy to let Fanny speak for herself, quoting copiously from her letters and journals, in which she regularly transforms the world around her, with a few casual strokes of her pen, into something intense and wonderful… superbly sympathetic."
"A welcome new biography of the iconic 19th-century poet… a valuable reassessment…comprehensive, affectionate, and astute…A revelatory exploration of Longfellow’s life and art and how he became a “dominant force in American Letters.”
"Absorbing…[Basbanes] explores the private griefs as well as the public acclaim that Longfellow experienced… a great deal of new biographical research and reporting."
“Longfellow and his times are brought vividly to life…Basbanes uses his sources well, transporting readers beautifully to the world of a poet who is often overlooked. If you enjoy literary biography, this is a book to savor.”
"I was steeped [as a schoolboy] in Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, reciting it obsessively as a child. Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Nicholas A. Basbanes (Knopf) provides an exhilarating account of this multifaceted man of letters who became a national institution"
—Paul Muldoon, TLS (Times Literary Supplement) "Books of the Year"
“A sheer joy to read for its portrayal of the amazing life of the first “poet of the people”… Basbanes has done the great American poet a great service…a persuasive case for [Longfellow’s] place in the pantheon of American, if not world literature”…Verdict: essential
Basbanes’ marvelous biography revives the iconic 19th-century poet’s reputation… captures the full scope of Longfellow’s life."
—National Book Review
(5 Best for June 2020)
"Well timed…[its] richness…presents Longfellow as a man, husband, friend and cultural monument of 19th-century America…[to know] Longfellow’s life and milieu, Basbanes is definitely your man."
"Sublime… vividly depicts the dramatic love story between Henry and his second wife, Fanny…the word portrait of him crafted by Basbanes should cast in stone a legacy of sustained productivity and virtuous living capable of withstanding the test of time."
"[Basbanes] seems to know everything there is to know about Longfellow…[he] is a painstaking researcher, the kind who turns every page, as Robert Caro would say, and he has benefited from access to lots of material previously unavailable… What [Longfellow] wanted was to be popular, to be read and understood by everyone, and he achieved that more than any American writer before or since. He was exactly the poet he wanted to be."
Sunday Book Review
"Basbanes clearly knows his man and makes a good case that he deserves the renown that prompted Fargo, Minneapolis and just about every American hamlet back in the day to name a school for him."
Minneapolis Star Tribune
"The most enlightening biography [of Longfellow] to date."
—William David Barry,
Portland Press Herald
"Thoughtful, investigative…Basbanes’s fresh portrait should restore deserved respect for and interest in once-ubiquitous Longfellow."
—Janet St. John, Booklist
"Nicholas Basbanes tells the tale with diligence [and] affection." —James Marcus,
Basbanes is a knowledgeable and sympathetic guide…[this biography] reveals a number of ways in which [Longfellow's] printed poems worked like icebergs: small blocks of text that emerged from the blank space of the page while hinting at much larger concerns under the surface.
Times Literary Supplement
“Basbanes is a great biographer. He has the detective, forensic, semantic, and soothsayer skills to tease new meaning from the material…[he] tells us that Longfellow is still, in our century, a gift that keeps giving…Cross of Snow is enlightening, perceptive and moving."
—Brian T. Allen,
"Engaging in its examination of the poet’s personal life…Henry’s second wife, Fanny Appleton, emerges as its captivating tragic heroine… Basbanes’s writing is absorbing…His research prodigious. His probing of Fanny’s papers has proved especially revealing, and given her new stature."
"This volume is an excellent addition to [a] worthy cause…a captivating tale…illuminating… emphasizes Longfellow’s relationships with smart, intellectual women."
(“best books” forecast)
"Splendidly recounted...I have no hesitation in calling it 'magisterial.' It should spark a Longfellow revival, something long overdue... This is a labor love."
—Albert B. Southwick,
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
“A balm to the senses in these tumultuous times…Beautifully written... Plus, you get to read about Longfellow’s purchase of a 1496 Plutarch!”
—Rebecca Rego Barry,