The award-winning author of The Peabody Sisters takes a fresh look at the trailblazing life of a great American heroine--Thoreau's first editor, Emerson's close friend, first female war correspondent, and passionate advocate of personal and political freedom.
... 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.