BookBrowse Reviews Love and Fury by Samantha Silva

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Love and Fury

A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft

by Samantha Silva

Love and Fury by Samantha Silva X
Love and Fury by Samantha Silva
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  • Published:
    May 2021, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Will Heath
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While staying true to history and respecting the legacy of one of the feminist movement's pioneers, Samantha Silva's lavishly written Love and Fury offers readers a sorrowful but uplifting retelling of Mary Wollstonecraft's life.

Mary Wollstonecraft is best known for being an early advocate for women's rights and the mother of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley. Undeniably ahead of her time, Wollstonecraft suffered a tarnished reputation until she was elevated to icon status in the 20th century as feminist ideology gathered steam.

Aside from penning multiple works of fiction and non-fiction — most famously A Vindication of the Rights of Woman — Wollstonecraft lived a colorful life filled with love, loss and acts of defiance. It was the events of this life that overshadowed her legacy (see Beyond the Book). In Love and Fury, however, her story is told with a deft blend of sensitivity and aplomb.

The novel opens on August 30, 1797, the day that Mary Shelley was born. We meet Wollstonecraft and her husband, anarchist philosopher William Godwin, and see the day's events through the eyes of midwife Mrs. Blenkinsop (also referred to as Mrs. B). From here, the book's chapters shift back and forth between this narrow period of time — ranging from the birth of Mary Shelley to the death of her mother 11 days later — and the earlier life events of Wollstonecraft, told in the first person. This device gives readers a consistent and welcome shift in tone and setting. The Mary W chapters are longer and broader in scope, while the Mrs. B chapters are shorter, behaving like interludes that increase in intensity as the novel progresses. Love and Fury is plotted with tight pacing, dwelling on moments of impact and emotion while also jumping forward when the need arises, keeping the momentum consistently high.

The events of Wollstonecraft's life are told with bright emotion, capturing the wisdom, savvy, integrity and common sense of this early feminist. We see her childhood home, her relationships with her brash, abusive father and her spoiled older brother. We see the spark that lit the fire of her hatred for marriage and the traditional roles of women, as she is expected to marry young, and to care for her sisters.

The characterization of the women in the novel is spectacular. Wollstonecraft famously had a deep and loving relationship with the illustrator Fanny Blood, who also died of complications related to childbirth. It's a relief to see this intimate bond painted with detail and faithfulness by Silva. Blood is portrayed as a sympathetic love interest with her own difficult and tragic choices to make; fate railroads her in one direction while she experiences conflict, both internal and external. In the early chapters, young Jane Arden (who would eventually become a schoolmistress) is given a satisfying arc of character growth. She matures and befriends Wollstonecraft after initially turning her nose up at the girl, while her scholarly father — a natural philosopher — teaches Mary, motivating her to pursue science and knowledge.

Our narrator-protagonist is an inspiring heroine, engaging in frequent battles of wit on the topics of marriage, tradition, education and the distribution of wealth. Every aspect of her legendary philosophy — especially the education rights of women and girls — is captured in her personality and her speech. She lives and breathes her beliefs, while still being given the space to experience love, passion, anger, hate and loss.

Silva has done a miraculous job of presenting the reader with a life that contains multitudes, all while keeping intact the accomplishments for which Wollstonecraft is famous. Love and Fury is a flawless fictional retelling of a radical and unique life in spectacular color.

Reviewed by Will Heath

This review is from the Love and Fury. It first ran in the July 14, 2021 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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