... pushes Ms. Marshall into the front rank of American biographers ... She is comfortable with subtle intellection as well as the sweep of history. She captures the intricacies of Fuller’s editorship and her stints as a front-page columnist and foreign correspondent ... Ms. Marshall is terrific on Fuller’s composition of the feminist manifesto Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which made her a celebrity ... as seductive as it is impressive. It has the grain and emotional amplitude of a serious novel, especially in its first half. It delivers a lovely and bumpy coming-of-age story, one of the best such stories 19th-century America has to offer ... slackens in its final third, when Fuller is living in Italy. Too much is made of her lack of sexual experience; the author lingers too long over suggestive phrases from Fuller’s writing ... Ms. Marshall’s prose, usually so crisp, edges toward the overripe ... These are rare slips in an alert and elegant narrative. Ms. Marshall’s rigorous book stands on the shoulders of earlier scholarship and many previous biographies of Fuller. It doesn’t contain a vast amount of new material. But in Ms. Marshall, Fuller has found what feels like her ideal biographer.
A sure-footed biographer, Marshall admits to devoting disproportionate attention to a subject that was catalytic to Fuller’s emotional as well as intellectual development, the 'circle of young ‘lovers’ who were drawn to the flame of her intelligence' and were invariably left blistered, eager for gentler company. No one likes a conceited genius, and Marshall seems to know that she can’t hold her readers for long without countering the arrogance Fuller’s accomplishments inspired. How better to summon sympathy than to highlight the romantic disappointments that attended the bluestocking’s homeliness and lack of social grace?
It may seem ridiculous to harp on a book cover, but this is a cover that says, 'This is a book for women.' Fuller would not have approved ... With the aid of Fuller's voluminous correspondence, Marshall recreates a young woman who feels achingly contemporary ... Marshall's a wonderful writer, and her book is a good place to start.
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 ... 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.
... highly readable ... The book could be better at placing Fuller within the context of 18th- and 19th-century women’s history ... And it is not entirely clear that another account of Fuller’s life was needed. In addition to the fairly recent scholarly tomes cited by Marshall, another popular biography of Fuller appeared just over a year ago, to critical acclaim ... Still, Marshall’s biography is an enlightening and absorbing portrait of a woman whose struggles and triumphs reflect the constraints of a bygone era and yet resonate today. In these pages, liberally enriched with quotations from her own vivid prose, Margaret Fuller comes to life. It’s not unusual to find, at the end of a biography, that its subject meets with death. But it’s rare that the reader comes upon that expected ending with tears in her eyes.
... exhaustive, exhausting ... a largely static portrait of Fuller constructed through swatches of correspondence, published works, private writings and Marshall’s conjectures ... Marshall’s dutiful biography reaches full sail itself in relating Fuller’s final years after many pages adrift.
Shaping her narrative like a novel, Marshall brings the reader as close as possible to Fuller’s inner life and conveys the inspirational power she has achieved for several generations of women ... For the first five sections, [Collins's] effort to write about Fuller 'from the inside' is brilliantly successful ... in dealing with the eventful final five years of Fuller’s life—her years in Europe and her fatal journey back home—Marshall identifies so closely with her subject that critical distance disappears; and these years present the most difficult biographical issues ... Even if Marshall’s life of Fuller is not new in its facts, it is eloquent and welcome. But I think that biographers have done all they can for Margaret Fuller.
... thoroughly absorbing, lively nearly outpaces her admiration, though the book passionately evokes both. Fuller, so often misunderstood in life, richly deserves the nuanced, compassionate portrait Marshall paints ... Marshall makes good use of her subject’s own writings and that of her contemporaries, especially in the book’s earlier sections, when Fuller was living and writing in New England, and later, New York. It’s in the book’s final section, set in Italy, that Marshall most ardently argues for our reappraisal of a woman inadequately remembered as too smart, too bossy, ill-tempered. Fuller’s Marshall, seen in the round, was flawed and human and magnificent ... Having grown to know the woman Marshall so stirringly portrays, it’s impossible not to mourn her early death.
... thoroughly researched. [Collins] not only accessed the Fuller family papers, but also Margaret’s correspondence, works in print, and her final journal. Marshall’s original aim was to focus on Margaret’s public life but admits it was impossible to separate it from Fuller’s unorthodox private life. The result is an engaging biography that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
Marshall is a gifted storyteller steeped in the parochial society of nineteenth-century Boston and Concord ... There is not much that is materially 'new' in Marshall’s life, beyond a letter from Emerson and some engravings that belonged to Fuller, which survived the shipwreck, and which the author discovered in the course of her research. But there are many ways of doing justice to Fuller, and Marshall makes an eloquent case for her as a new paradigm ... Marshall excels at creating a sense of intimacy—with both her subject and her reader.
... profoundly simpatico portrait of this path-breaking feminist and courageous journalist and writer ... inhabits Fuller’s dramatic, oft-told story with unique intimacy by virtue of her fluency in and judicious quoting of Fuller’s extraordinarily vivid letters ... Marshall brings stirring historical and psychological insights ... How spectacularly detailed and compassionate Marshall’s chronicle is of Fuller’s scandalous love for an Italian soldier, the birth of their son, her heroic coverage of the 1849 siege of Rome, and her and her family’s tragic deaths when their ship wrecks in sight of the American coast. A magnificent biography of a revolutionary thinker, witness, and writer.