Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft

Written by Samantha Silva
Review by Sarah Hendess

On August 30, 1797, midwife Parthenia Blenkinsop arrives at a house in North London to deliver Mary Wollstonecraft’s baby. She’s expecting another routine birth but finds the woman now renowned as the world’s first feminist philosophizer anything but ordinary. When Wollstonecraft fails to deliver her placenta, her husband, against Blenkinsop’s better judgment, calls for a male doctor, who performs a procedure that will ultimately lead to Wollstonecraft’s death by septicemia.

During the eleven days Wollstonecraft clings to life, she tells her new baby girl, the future Mary Shelley, her life story. She fears the fragile infant will not survive, so she tells her the tale to “bind (her) to this world.” In alternating chapters, the reader hears Wollstonecraft’s story, from her upbringing under an abusive father to her development of her feminist ideas, as well as Blenkinsop’s account of Mary’s agonizing final days.

In her previous novel, Mr. Dickens and His Carol, Silva proved herself a master at illuminating the lives and struggles of a famous author, and Love and Fury shows she will not be a one-hit wonder. Wollstonecraft’s account of her life, written in first person, draws the reader into the time period and the struggles and limitations women faced, while Blenkinsop’s third-person chapters give a broader perspective on Wollstonecraft’s life and ideas. Both characters are fully fleshed out and beautifully human. Even readers typically uninterested in this time period will find themselves sucked into Silva’s lyrical prose. Highly recommended.