The loveliest aspect of this novel is its gentle, wondering portrayal of the Cavendish marriage. William, a poet and patron of the arts, encourages his wife’s ambitions even as they bring notoriety upon the household. Grasping that her genius will assure him a measure of posterity, he isn’t even unduly upset when the public credits her with writing his own stage plays. Ms. Dutton sensitively shows how Margaret’s iconoclasm complicates, but ultimately enriches their relationship.
Dutton expertly captures the pathos of a woman whose happiness is furrowed with the anxiety of underacknowledgment ... Dutton surprisingly and delightfully offers not just a remarkable duchess struggling in her duke’s world but also an intriguing dissection of an unusually bountiful partnership of (almost) equals.
This slender but dense imagining of the life of Margaret Cavendish, a pioneering 17th-century writer and wife of the aristocrat William Cavendish, could be classified as a more elliptical cousin of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels.