Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft

Flatiron. May 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781250159113. $26.99. F
Silva (Mr. Dickens and His Carol) skillfully portrays the remarkable life of a remarkable woman: Mary Wollstonecraft. As Mary recovers from the birth of her daughter (who will become Mary Shelley) in 1797, her midwife suggests that Mary tell her life story to her newborn. Mary recounts growing up in a family headed by a drunken, feckless father and a resigned mother who was exhausted by childbirth; there she sees firsthand the tyranny of marriage over women. She pursues education to overcome the injustice of women’s very limited options, and she vows to never marry. Mary endeavors instead to support herself and her family and friends through various occupations, from schoolmistress to governess to writer to observer and historian of the French Revolution; she becomes part of a London intellectual circle that includes such notables as William Blake and Erasmus Darwin. Veering from love and hope to despair and suicidal depression, she navigates life in search of happiness through freedom, which she eventually achieves in a marriage of equals with William Godwin.
VERDICT Silva’s grasp of the craft of historical fiction is impressive; she’s attentive to details of late 18th-century life as well as emotional authenticity. Recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction featuring strong women, especially those interested in the roots of feminism.
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