Eleanor Marx: Book summary and reviews of Eleanor Marx by Rachel Holmes

Eleanor Marx

A Life

by Rachel Holmes

Eleanor Marx by Rachel Holmes X
Eleanor Marx by Rachel Holmes
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2015
    528 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

Unrestrained by convention, lionhearted and free, Eleanor Marx (1855–98) was an exceptional woman. Hers was the first English translation of Flaubert's Madame Bovary. She pioneered the theater of Henrik Ibsen. She was the first woman to lead the British dock workers' and gas workers' trade unions. For years she worked tirelessly for her father, Karl Marx, as personal secretary and researcher. Later, she edited many of his key political works and laid the foundations for his biography. But foremost among her achievements was her pioneering feminism. For her, gender equality was a necessary precondition for a just society, and she crusaded for this in Britain and on a celebrated tour across America in 1886.

Drawing strength from her family and their wide circle, including Friedrich Engels and Wilhelm Liebknecht, Eleanor Marx set out into the world to make a difference. Her favorite motto: "Go ahead!" With her closest friends - among them Olive Schreiner, Havelock Ellis, George Bernard Shaw, Will Thorne, and William Morris - she was at the epicenter of British socialism. She was also the only Marx to claim her Jewishness. But her life contained a deep sadness: She loved a faithless and dishonest man, the academic, actor, and would-be playwright Edward Aveling. Yet despite the unhappiness he brought her, Eleanor Marx never wavered in her political life, ceaselessly campaigning and organizing until her untimely end.

Rachel Holmes has written a dazzling and original portrait of one of the most remarkable women of the nineteenth century.

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A full-fleshed, thrilling portrait, troubling and full of family secrets." - Kirkus

"Marx produced the first English translation of Flaubert's Madame Bovary, was the first woman to lead the British dock workers' and gas workers' trade unions and worked as personal secretary to her father Karl. Holmes' vivid biography of this Victorian intellectual brings her - and her age - to life." - Financial Times

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Holmes is the author of The Hottentot Venus: The life and death of Saartjie Baartman and The Secret Life of Dr James Barry. Rachel co-edited, with Lisa Appignanesi and Susie Orbach, the much-discussed Fifty Shades of Feminism. She was co-commissioning editor of Sixty Six Books: 21st Century Writers Speak to the King James Bible with Josie Rourke and Chris Haydon. Her latest book, Eleanor Marx: A Life is described by Golden PEN Award winner Gillian Slovo as "a dazzling account of a woman and her family, an age and a movement, that grips from the first page to the last."

In 2010 she received an Arts Council cultural leadership award as one of Britain's Fifty Women to Watch. Rachel Holmes has worked with and for British Council literature festivals and international programmes since 2000and is curator of the new Impossible Conversations talks series at the Donmar Warehouse in London.

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