Madame de Stal: The First Modern Woman

Francine du Plessix Gray, Author . Atlas $24 (248p) ISBN 978-1-934633-17-5

Novelist, philosopher, salonnière and a woman whose political genius was “worthy of the wiliest D.C. lobbyist”: Germaine de Staël (1766–1817) lived many lives during the chaotic years of French history from the Revolution through the machinations of Napoleon. NBCC Award–winning author Gray (Them: A Memoir of Parents ) chronicles her subject’s combination of charisma and historical circumstance, manifest in de Staël’s celebrated salons, impassioned literary tracts and iconoclastic personality. More than the quintessential cosmopolitan, de Staël saved lives during the Terror and launched careers. Yet before marrying her inept husband, she said, “I regret that I have not joined my fate to that of a great man; it is the only possible glory for a woman.” Despite repeated exile from Napoleon’s France, de Staël was as linked to the political workings of Parisian society as any of her male contemporaries. Faithful to de Staël’s incessant energy, Gray follows her movements at a forceful pace, masterfully commanding a wide cast of characters while streamlining the frantic narrative of her subject’s life. The reader trusts Gray completely, but wants more of the peerless de Staël. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/25/2008
Release date: 10/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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