Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

Megan Marshall. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-0-547-19560-5
Pulitzer Prize finalist Marshall (The Peabody Sisters) takes on the life of a lesser-known American writer in this biography of Margaret Fuller, whose book Women in the Nineteenth Century was merely the most successful among those she produced during a lifetime of impassioned intellectual discourse, both public and private. Marshall sticks closely to the primary documents of Fuller’s life. Though the biography reads as a narrative, the text is peppered with quotations from Fuller’s letters, essays, fiction, and personal diaries. This abundance of detail sometimes descends into tedium. Though organized around places Fuller lived, the book’s real driving force is her relationships, from the perfectionist father who gave her a thirst for education early on to the circle of academics and radicals over whom Fuller exerted her influence, among them Ralph Waldo Emerson. Marshall can’t avoid the romantic scandal of Fuller’s life—her accidental pregnancy by and secret marriage to the noble-born Giovanni Ossoli. The couple died in a shipwreck along with their newborn son soon after. But this scandal isn’t the focus of the book. Instead, Marshall seeks to render the plight of a female intellectual struggling to balance societal expectations with her lofty ambitions and ideals. The book’s success comes from the way that Marshall allows the reader to understand and empathize with Fuller in her plight. Agent: Katinka Matson, Brockman Agency. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/21/2013
Release date: 03/12/2013
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FORMATS
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-547-52362-0
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-544-24561-7
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