Miss Fuller

April Bernard. Steerforth (Random, dist.), $14.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-58642-195-3
Fact meets fiction in this intriguing historical novel expounding on the life and times of Margaret Fuller, a freethinking feminist writer and friend of Emerson and Thoreau, among others, on the Concord scene. In poet Bernard’s rendering, readers have an additional lens in Anne, a fictionalized sister of Thoreau’s, who, in her youth, attends one of Fuller’s Boston salons for ladies and then, later in life, becomes privy to a “lost letter” written from the ship that would have returned Fuller from Europe to the States had it not sunk off Fire Island, killing Fuller, her Italian husband, and their young son. Though the structure of the book feels artificial—in part because the imagined letter makes up the entire second section–the overall effect is worthwhile, bringing to light the fear of and disdain for independent, courageous women even among enlightened Transcendentalists. Though Fuller’s untimely death was marked by sadness, it is the widespread relief evocatively etched in these pages that startles: no one knew what to make of this outspoken woman of dubious virtue, and a mother at that, leaving even the most progressive minds of the time to wonder if her tragic end wasn’t something of a blessing after all. (Apr. 3)
Reviewed on: 02/27/2012
Release date: 04/03/2012
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