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Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft

Review

Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft

Even though FRANKENSTEIN was published in 1818, Mary Shelley is still considered one of the most famous writers of all time. Literary historians love to discuss the birth of that novel from a weekend retreat at the home of Lord Byron and a challenge to write the scariest story. John William Polidori came up with the overlooked classic THE VAMPYR, but by far FRANKENSTEIN --- written by a young woman in an age when female writers were not the norm --- was the true triumph.

LOVE AND FURY is not a story of Mary Shelley per se, although she is featured in it. This intelligent work of historical fiction pays homage to her mother, the well-known feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. On August 30, 1797, Mary is struggling through the final moments of what has proven to be a rather difficult pregnancy. Were it not for the heroic actions of midwife Parthenia Blenkinsop, the world may never have known Mary Shelley. We also may have lost her mother, a powerful and inspirational woman who still had much more to do in this world.

"LOVE AND FURY is such an engaging read that you easily will lose sight of the fact that these are fictionalized retellings of famous events and people."

As Mary recalls the moments of her life while lying in agony in her birthing bed, she narrates these events to her baby girl, who she refers to as “little bird” --- a literary device that is so clever and moving on the part of author Samantha Silva. Mary had a difficult upbringing primarily due to her mean and violent father, who had killed her biggest ally, her dog Betsy. She also faced the resentment of some of her siblings because she stood up to her father, who then took his frustrations out on all of them.

It was this early experience with men that made Mary speak out at school about seeking happiness in life without having to be a wife and lamenting the tyranny of marriage. She bore both physical and mental scars as a result of her family trauma and proudly carried them within her on behalf of her siblings. These pivotal moments shaped her and made her the philosopher, writer and advocate for feminism for which she became famous. So proud was she of the name she had made for herself that when her precious daughter finally entered this world, the first name that came out of her mouth was “Mary.” She was already branding her with a legacy that she would faithfully follow.

Mary was a defiant young woman who cared not what others thought but instead tried to forge a life of her own independent and unwavering beliefs. She was often confronted by accusations like “Why must we all remake the world, Mary? What if I just want to live in it?” That might have been enough for most women of this age and time, but Mary could never see herself succumbing to it.

By far, the most tragic part of Mary’s life was the death of her beloved younger sister, Fanny. Courageously, she used Fanny’s passing as the impetus to continue on and fight for women who seek to break free of the “traditional” bonds that held them during this time in history. The novel explores Mary’s primary relationships that helped to further forge her destiny. However, none were as important as the man who would eventually get her to renounce her old claims of denying marriage, her future husband William Godwin, a writer and political philosopher.

LOVE AND FURY is such an engaging read that you easily will lose sight of the fact that these are fictionalized retellings of famous events and people. Parthenia Blenkinsop is such a great character who would have lived an unheralded life had it not been for the role she played in Mary Shelley’s eventual birth. But it is the spiritual bond between Mary Wollstonecraft and her little bird that is the most heartfelt in this story, particularly the thoughts from mother to child: “Sorrow, my sweet girl, will bring you to your knees, time and again, but so will beauty, so too love, enough to rise again, to try again, to live as all beings wish to live: free.”

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 4, 2021

Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft
by Samantha Silva

  • Publication Date: May 25, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250159113
  • ISBN-13: 9781250159113