Book Talk,  New Releases

Love and Fury: The Powerful Legacy Wollstonecraft Bequeathed To Her Daughter

Hello everyone! Since Mother’s Day isn’t too far behind us, I thought that this absolutely awesome novel about mothers and daughters that I was fortunate enough to receive an eARC of on NetGalley, was particularly fitting. (All quotations are taken from the eARC I was provided. There may be some differences in the final published version.) Love and Fury is Samantha Silva’s sophomore novel, and it is anything but a slump. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading her debut Mr. Dickens and His Carol, but I definitely will be seeking it out now since I was so impressed with this tour de force.

This book was so unique in the way it was structured. We as readers are treated to Mary Wollstonecraft, now a mature woman, telling her own life story, from her difficult adolescence, up until her relationship with William Godwin. Silva’s choice to alternate between relaying Wollstonecraft’s present story through the voice of the midwife assisting with the birth of her daughter, the future Mary Shelley, and Wollstonecraft’s past, shown in retrospect, was a clever idea. It helps the reader to empathize with how much Wollstonecraft had to butt up against expectations in order to achieve what she did, and how extraordinary her resilience was in the face of such odds. I knew a little about Wollstonecraft, but much of the extent of my knowledge I had gleaned from biographies of her arguably more well-known daughter, author of Frankenstein and wife to poet Percy Shelley. But Mary Shelley could not have been the woman she was without her mother. Wollstonecraft’s pioneering legacy paved the way for her. The daughter of a delicate mother and an abusive and alcoholic father, Wollestonecraft from an early age learned to be self-sufficient. Determined not to follow in her mother’s footsteps, she struck out on her own. She would spend the rest of her life flouting the attempts of anyone to restrain her.

From progressive educator and writer, to political activist and rabble rouser, Wollstonecraft, despite the relative shortness of her life, accomplished a great deal. A woman of passion, Mary gave her heart freely, falling deeply in love in her life three times; first with her first love, Fanny Blood, the noted botanical artist and illustrator of Flora Londinensis, and then with Gilbert Imlay, author and father of her first daughter, (also named Fanny) and finally, with William Godwin, the political philosopher and Mary Shelley’s father. Mary proved that it was possible to be a radical and a champion for women’s rights while also raising her two children. She was the sole caretaker of her daughter Fanny for much of the latter part of her relationship with Imlay, and upon his eventual permanent abandonment of them both, became a full-time single mother. This never stopped her though from writing and continuing to be active in the intellectual and political spheres in which she moved. Never one to stand on convention, Mary was an unwed mother as well, having never officially legalized her relationship with Fanny’s father. And it was only because of the great love between her and Godwin that they both went against their belief, that marriage was an inherently oppressive institution, in order to marry the other. Thus, two revolutionaries became one, united in love, and they would remain so until Wollstonecraft’s death.

This novel was so inspirational as well as a page-turner! The juxtaposition of the tension-fueled calm of the present timeline chapters along with the riveting past ones, together made for an experience where I found myself wanting to keep going, to read, “just one more chapter.” I would highly recommend this for anyone who loves great women’s biographies and historical fiction. This is already numbering among my favorite new releases of the year.

Samantha Silva’s novel Love and Fury is now available for purchase.

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