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Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution Hardcover – September 14, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Mary Gabriel brings the tragic Marx family saga blazingly to life for a new generation of readers. She also makes a compelling argument that, following the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the economic meltdown of Western capitalism, the economic analysis of Marx and Engels has a continuing relevance in the 21st century."―Gillian Gill, author of We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals

"Love and Capital is a huge, often gripping book. It gives an entertaining and balanced portrait of Marx, Engels, their colorful milieu of exiles, freaks and revolutionaries, and the little-known Marx family, dominated by Karl's political obsession. It also details illicit love affairs, the deaths of children and financial struggles, all based on vast research and narrated with empathetic passion...[It's] enjoyable...because of the details of family life and family politics that Gabriel offers up - her vivid portrait of a struggling, obsessional bohemian intellectual in the capitals of mid-19th-century Europe."―Simon Sebag Montefiore, New York Times Book Review

"Mary Gabriel provides a fresh approach to this oft-examined topic... a gripping tale of intellectual abundance coupled with physical poverty."―Jennifer Siegel, Wall Street Journal

"Those interested in European political development of the 19th and 20th centuries will be fascinated by the story of the monocled, bearded, poverty-stricken lecturer on economics and his small, powerless audiences of refugees."―Carl Hartman, Associated Press

"Beautifully written...The particular attraction of Love and Capital resides in the book's unsparing portrait of a brilliant man who would never claim responsibility for his own failures when he could easily fob them off on financial, familial, or political obstacles."―Michael Washburn, Boston Globe

"Love and Capital, which was nominated for a National Book Award, is also a thrilling story, heroically researched, with passages on every page so startling, exact, moving or perceptive that I wanted to quote them all. Hard to imagine that a weighty book on Karl Marx could be a page-turner, but this one is."―Elaine Showalter, The Washington Post

"Love and Capital is a page turner, an erudite, sensitive look at the world-changing man and, most of all, the overlooked women in his life, who sacrificed much happiness to help him evangelize his vision of class equality."―Slate

"Absorbing, affectionate and altogether exemplary."―Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News

"A magisterial account of the lives of Karl Marx and his wife, Jenny von Westphalen, remarkable for the ease with which it moves between the domestic and the political spheres...Gabriel offers us the human, family side of a character more usually seen as a calculating theoretician, and in doing so offers an intimate glimpse into the trials, tribulations, and passions of a man who, more than any other thinker, has shaped our modern notions of work, money, and social relations."―Publishers Weekly

"[Gabriel] offers a rich, humanizing portrait of the Marx family....A saga as richly realized as a fine Victorian novel."―Kirkus Reviews

"A serious and tremendously well-researched biography of a remarkable family who worked together to change the world... Mary Gabriel tells their story with great empathy and verve...to illuminate what Karl called his "microscopic world" of home and family. Gabriel also provides plenty of excursions into the "macroscopic world" of 19th-century revolutionary politics, as well as some lucid explanations of Karl's earthshaking ideas."―Mark Doyle, Bookpage

"This is the first seriously researched study of the relationship-the passionate love story-between the philosopher and his wife, Jenny von Westphalen...Gabriel draws heavily upon extensive Marx family correspondence to create a compelling story of love and heartbreak, following the Marx family across Europe through hard times and tragedy. She reveals not only the intellectual and revolutionary Karl Marx, but also the husband, father, and very human being...Recommended for serious general and specialist readers interested in understanding Karl Marx more deeply, the development of Marxist doctrine, and humanized 19th-century European history."―Leslie Lewis, Library Journal

"Gabriel blends Marx's radical political activities and summaries of his major writings into an unblinking account of his marriage in a book-lengthening strategy that eventuates in much minutiae of socialist history while still showing the causes of the Marxes' chronic marital crisis... Gabriel's comprehensive research yields a new standard work about the private Marx."Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

About the Author

Mary Gabriel was educated in the United States and France, and worked in Washington and London as a Reuters editor for nearly two decades. She is the author of two previous biographies: Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored, and The Art of Acquiring: A Portrait of Etta and Claribel Cone. She lives in Italy.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (September 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316066117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316066112
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By JHS on September 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I normally don't write reviews of American books from my home here in Ireland, but I was struck by Mary Gabriel's work, a compelling narrative detailing the public and private life of the Marx family -- in addition to an eminently readable account of Marx's philosophy and the extraordinary times in which this family lived. It is the latter feature which sets this biography apart (in fact sets a new standard for biographies in general): Gabriel has succeeded in giving us a convincing portrait, not only of the political genius Karl Marx and his work, but a full immersion into the turbulent world of his revolutionary agenda. She weaves a convincing pattern of a man and his family struggling against oppression, battling the iniquities of a burgeoning capitalism, the existence of soulless child-labor laws, the arrogance of kings relying on their divine right, and the resultant brutalization of working people making valiant efforts just to survive. It is a story of a grand passion, of spies and betrayal, of triumphs and despair, but throughout a steadfast belief that the world deserved something better than enveloping greed. In reading Gabriel's work one cannot avoid the very apparent parallels with our current economic inequities, of obscene corporate salaries, of trade unions without teeth, of hiring practices motivated solely by market considerations, of lending institutions and banks riddled with corruption.
One other observation jumps off the page: Gabriel's writing style, full of vivacity and American verve, is a welcome relief from the stuffy writing (leaden, lusterless, passionless) of British historians. Her work lends this subject all of the furious drama it deserves.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I studied Marxism in graduate school along with existential theology. It was the early 1960's and I read just about everything that Marx and Engels wrote. A classmate and I used to laugh into the night at the irony, wit and sarcasm that went into their writing. No, we did not become revolutionaries but we learned to better understand the human condition and the need for some of us to work not entirely for money and prestige but to help those who were born into the socio-economic lower class. Of course, my friend and I helped professionally and did not suffer the poverty and humiliation of Marx and his family.

Now, fifty years later, I come upon this wonderfully written love story of Karl and Jenny. It is a biographic masterpiece. Karl, Jenny, Engels and all the "revolutionaries" around them jump back to life. And the question is always: Will Karl finish CAPITAL so the family becomes rich and famous? They were revolutionaries, yes, but also very petit bourgeoisie -- like most of us where money, shelter, food, family and love always move to the forefront.

You can read it as fiction, history, mystery or whatever. The book is captivating.
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By GLS on September 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Eleven people. That's how many people attended Karl Marx's funeral. He was a failure, already almost totally forgotten, his family virtually destroyed by his efforts, his analysis of capitalism and revolution on the edge of history's waste bin. No one would have predicted that his theories would be remembered, much less influential.

I studied some Marx in college, and like many others have noticed how many prominent (non-Marxist) economists and thinkers have, in recent years, said Marx was on to something in his analysis of capitalism. But I had absolutely no idea how rich and dramatic his life was. LOVE AND CAPITAL is a rare sort of book that manages to be very entertaining (it reads like a Victorian novel, even a Merchant-Ivory film) and exceptionally comprehensive in its view of an age of revolution. Few books that I've ever read have managed to combine history, biography, politics with such ease. The story is as dramatic as it gets, full of surprises (like that funeral attendance figure), the largest of which is the recognition that Marx was a person, full of life, complication, mischief, cruelty, love. There's plenty of history and theory in here (how could there not be?) but where LOVE AND CAPITAL worked best for me was in its humanization. Marx, Jenny and their communities of radicals reminded me somewhat of accounts of the Weathermen and SDS (and some, the Weather Underground), set in the age of Dickens.

A great book, rich as can be--the kind of rich that Marx would have been okay with!
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Format: Hardcover
Mary Gabriel's biography of Karl Marx is powerfully researched and fabulously written, although at times the sheer detail turns the story into a ledger of Marx's financial and personal struggles.

The depth of Gabriel's research is astounding. Hundreds of letters and dozens of pawn shops appear in the narrative, and every page makes you feel Marx is more of an acquaintance and less of an historical figure. Gabriel does take some liberties, as she often speculates with sentences like, "Perhaps Marx was afraid that ..." and "It is unlikely that Jenny Marx ...." But overall, research rules the book, as citations abound and no area of Marx's life is left out.

Jenny Marx, the love of Karl's life, is a profound figure in the book, as she was in Marx's life. Although Gabriel is frank about Marx's extramarital wanderings, Gabriel focuses the book on the foundation of Marx's home and the bedrock of his intellectual life, his wife. Jenny came from a privileged, upper-class family that initially hesitated to accept the marriage but later welcomed Marx with open arms. Jenny's father was one of Karl's first tutors in what we now call socialist thought.

Where Marx was prone to inconstancy, Jenny was his balance. Jenny supported Marx throughout their lives, even as the two wept over lost children, despaired over finding their next meal, and fled in the face of persecution. She translated Marx's writings out of his illegible script and ministered to him through his unending stream of illnesses, and through it all she clung to the hope that he would one day finish his economic masterpiece that would make him famous and the family wealthy.

Gabriel's biography is fabulous for its research and its new focus on the wife that kept Marx afloat through many turbulent times.
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