Summary and book reviews of Love and Fury by Samantha Silva

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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About this Book

Book Summary

From the acclaimed author of Mr. Dickens and His Carol, a richly-imagined reckoning with the life of another cherished literary legend: Mary Wollstonecraft – arguably the world's first feminist.

August, 1797. Midwife Parthenia Blenkinsop has delivered countless babies, but nothing prepares her for the experience that unfolds when she arrives at Mary Wollstonecraft's door. Over the eleven harrowing days that follow, as Mrs. Blenkinsop fights for the survival of both mother and newborn, Mary Wollstonecraft recounts the life she dared to live amidst the impossible constraints and prejudices of the late 18th century, rejecting the tyranny of men and marriage, risking everything to demand equality for herself and all women. She weaves her riveting tale to give her fragile daughter a reason to live, even as her own strength wanes. Wollstonecraft's urgent story of loss and triumph forms the heartbreakingly brief intersection between the lives of a mother and daughter who will change the arc of history and thought.

In radiant prose, Samantha Silva delivers an ode to the dazzling life of Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the world's most influential thinkers and mother of the famous novelist Mary Shelley. But at its heart, Love and Fury is a story about the power of a woman reclaiming her own narrative to pass on to her daughter, and all daughters, for generations to come.

Mrs. B

August 30, 1797

Mrs. Blenkinsop arrived at a neat circle of three-story houses at the edge of North London, surprised to find her charge at the open door, holding her ripe belly with both hands and ushering her inside with an easy smile and no apparent terror of the event to come. The home and its mistress, in a muslin gown and indigo shawl, smelled of apple dumplings. Though they hadn't met, the woman took the midwife's hand and led her past half-furnished rooms, introducing them as she went, waving away stacks of books on a Turkish carpet, anticipating shelves, and the occasional wood box and leather trunk, as "the old life still finding its place in the new." Mrs. Blenkinsop had seen far more disarray in her time, and liked the simple touches, cut flowers in every room and a single oval portrait, just a face (that looked very much like the missus herself) gazing out from over a mantel. In the garden out back, which was enjoying its first late-summer bloom, the midwife caught ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the novel's title. How do both love and fury shape the lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mrs. Blenkinsop? What do those words mean to you?
  2. Love and Fury alternates between third-person narration from Mrs. Blenkinsop's perspective and first-person narration from Mary's. What is the effect of moving back and forth between these two strands? How do they inform each other?
  3. Mary's chapters are narrated directly to her daughter. As she says: "I will tell you the story to fill you up and bind you to this wondrous vale, if you stay with us, little bird. Please stay. I will tell you the moments that begin and end me—because we are made of them all, strung like pearls in time, searching always for where the new circle begins its turn...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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. 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...continued

Full Review Members Only (576 words).

(Reviewed by Will Heath).

Media Reviews

Ms. Magazine
Magical…A love letter to life itself. Love and Fury is a beautifully written call to all of us to fill our own brief time with as much love, wisdom, suffering and, most important, beauty as possible.

Historical Novel Society
Beautifully human. Even readers typically uninterested in this time period will find themselves sucked into Silva's lyrical prose. Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews
[M]oving...Silva's strong visual language enhances an otherwise matter-of-fact retelling of Wollstonecraft's brief, eventful life.

Booklist
Wide-ranging, deep…Passionate…Related with superb detail…Silva's portrait of the revolutionary Wollstonecraft generates an absorbing tale of courage, sorrow, and the dance between independence and intimacy that delivers a sense of triumphant catharsis.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] gripping, meticulous novel...Silva's heartbreaking but inspiring work captures the despair and joy, convictions and contradictions of an extraordinary woman.

Author Blurb Afia Atakora, author of Conjure Women
Love and Fury sparks with a thrilling jolt of electricity, reanimating the epic legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, and a valiant feminist icon in her own right. Samantha Silva's sensory prose is smartly crafted in a dual storyline delivered both as a daring midwife's moving account of loss, and as a dying mother's appeal to her newborn daughter to live. Together, the two weave a spun-gold tale both sweeping and intimate. Through this prism of history, Love and Fury shines with essential truths about love, womanhood, and the timeless struggle to define one's self.

Author Blurb Clare Beams, author of The Illness Lesson
Here is a novel set on the border between living and dying, with a heroine so powerful she conquers all territories, including this one?and she conquered me, too. Love and Fury thrums with beauty, pain, sorrow, wonder, tragedy, triumph, and life. What an extraordinary and transformative book this is.

Author Blurb Natalie Jenner, author of The Jane Austen Society
Astonishing and groundbreaking. Silva’s Wollstonecraft is one of the most complex, kind and endearing characters in recent historical fiction, simultaneously strong and heartbreakingly vulnerable. A provocative, inspiring and timely novel...

Author Blurb TaraShea Nesbit, author of Beheld
A gorgeous novel. Silva has given homage and light to Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist icon and mother of Mary Shelley, but so much more, creating a complex and loving novel all her own. This illuminating story harnesses the power women have—even in the midst of loss—to change the world, one woman's story at a time. An urgent masterpiece. Or should I say, Mistress-piece?

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Beyond the Book

The Legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft, circa 1970-71 Although the word "feminist" did not enter popular political discourse until over a century after her death, the published works of Mary Wollstonecraft show her to be one of the world's pioneering feminist writers. As Love and Fury explores in some detail, the events of Wollstonecraft's life were crucial in cementing her ideologies and philosophies concerning the roles and education of women. Her earliest gestures in defense of women included protecting her mother from her father's abuse and convincing her sister to leave her husband. However, the legacy of Wollstonecraft has been a rocky one. For a hundred years, society looked back on her life with harshness and skepticism, due in part to how she was portrayed by her spouse, William ...

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