... It’s impossible to summarise adequately a book so magnificent. This biography is, granted, very long at almost 1,000 pages, but a life so large merits comprehensive treatment. Unlike so many excessively long books recently published, this is not simply a collection of facts carelessly assembled; it is instead a sophisticated symphony of intriguing and complex analysis, delivered in mellifluous harmony. It’s a feminist book, as is appropriate to the subject, but feminist theory is used as a scalpel, not a sledgehammer ... there’s nothing linear about this wonderful book, but its direction is always clear. If it fails to make the shortlists of the main history prizes, I’ll be very cross indeed ... Holmes sublimely illuminates Sylvia’s extraordinary life.
... compelling ... This book digs deep into the sorrows and passions of this complex and creative woman ... This is a moving, powerful biography of a woman whose desire to connect 'with all the world' is an inspiration for our uncertain times.
After numerous historical, fictional and cinematic treatments, the story of the suffragist movement is familiar, though always captivating ... At more than 900 pages, Holmes’s book is packed with detail, but marred by so much repetition that the reader is left with the impression of a vast amount of material not fully marshaled into narrative form. At times, her paragraphs feel like notes hastily compiled and not fully digested; moments of high drama are interrupted by digressions that leave the reader grasping to fillet meaning from a barrage of information. Holmes’s writing is prone to sweeping overstatement and replete with clichés ... The word 'radical' is so overused as to lose all meaning, applied to everything from the views of W. E. B. Du Bois to an English folk ballad, from Mancunian socialism to a vegetarian restaurant ... Despite its length, Holmes’s book tends to skate over opportunities for psychological insight into its subject, in particular her personal relationships. Potentially seismic quarrels tend to be reported then resolved in the space of a few lines, with little attention paid to the erosions and ambivalences that shape dynamics over a lifetime of shared experience ... Nonetheless, no book on Sylvia Pankhurst could fail to pass on an exhilarating story.