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Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America's First Poet Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 23, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Anne Bradstreet (1612?-1672) published her first book of poetry, The Tenth Muse, in 1650, she called it the "ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain." Yet, as poet Gordon (Two Girls on a Raft) demonstrates in this plodding and unilluminating biography, Bradstreet uttered those words more out of self-defense than regret. From her adolescence to the publication of her book, the Puritan poet viewed her work as a vocation that enabled her to worship God in vivid homespun images and to express sometimes complex theological ideas in plain language. Gordon depicts Bradstreet as a woman of her time, required to submit to her father and husband in religious and social matters. Gordon demonstrates that Bradstreet nevertheless benefited from the privileges of a literary education. Her family's social and religious circle included the most important figures of the early 17th century, from John Winthrop to Roger Williams. While her book was very popular at its publication, Bradstreet's reputation waned after the Civil War, to be recovered in the 20th century by her influence on poets such as Anne Sexton and John Berryman. Regrettably, Gordon's wearisome focus on the well-known facts of Bradstreet's upbringing leaves little room for a significant exploration of her poetic life and works. 8 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–The early days of colonial New England come to life in this biography. Bradstreet was born in England in 1612, into a prominent Puritan family. Her father taught her to read, write, and compose poetry, unusual activities for a female of those times. In 1630, she and her new husband, her parents, and her siblings made the dangerous journey along with more than 300 others to what is now Massachusetts. Gordon portrays his subject as a complex personality–a dedicated, hardworking mother of eight and loving wife as well as a talented, prolific poet. While her poems dwell mostly on the godliness of the mundane, some of her later work reveals a rebellious spirit, a mind of her own. She wrote in praise of women, such as the warrior queen Elizabeth, an example of the glory of England. Bradstreet's story unfolds against the backdrop of the settling of the New England frontier and the English Civil War. The author uses conjecture when she writes about the poet's thoughts and reactions, but the historical events on both sides of the Atlantic are well researched and lushly portrayed. Readers will enjoy learning about this fascinating and courageous woman whose ideas helped shape this country.–Susanne Bardelson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (March 23, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316169048
  • ASIN: B000NBRY2I
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,280,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Award winning author Charlotte Gordon's most recent book is Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter, Mary Shelley (Random House). Her other books include: Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America's First Poet (Little, Brown, 2005), The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths (Little Brown, 2009), and two books of poetry: When the Grateful Dead Came to St. Louis and Two Girls on a Raft. A graduate of Harvard and Boston Universities, she has been featured on NPR's "Weekend Edition," CBC's "The Current" as well as many other radio and television programs. She is an Associate Professor of English at Endicott College in Beverly, MA.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Auntie Beck on July 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The other reviews are correct in that this is an engaging biography, but the condenscension the the Puritans are treated with made me give up reading it in frustration. Today's stereotypes of men in particular, and Puritans in general are all over this book and it is a shame. While the author expresses appreciation for what people like Anne Bradstreet accomplished, she seems to also completely miss the point with statements like, "Anne may have been one of the few to hope that she would not be on this first exploratory mission ashore. However, it soon became clear that her father expected her, her mother, and her three younger sisters to climb down into the tiny skiff that lay tossing up and down in the waves. None of them could swim. But in Anne's world, a good daughter was, by definition, someone who obeyed her parents without question, and so she had little choice but to sweep her sisters along and guide them over the rails of the ship." How else were they supposed to get off the ship?? And conditions being what they were during sea travel in that time, she was probably only too thankful to be among the first to go ashore! Two pages later we are subjected to this, "New England was far from being the 'empty' land that the English proclaimed it to be in order to assert their rights. In fact, this "desert," as the Puritans called it, had been cleared for centuries by the Massachusetts, the tribe that dominated the bay region." "Desert" is a word used in the Bible to denote a wilderness, which New England, however many Indians there were, certainly was to a group of people that had just left Europe with cities hundreds of years old all over it.Read more ›
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By College Professor on June 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
DO NOT TRUST THIS BOOK. It is more fiction than fact. I looked at it in the process of researching Bradstreet's life in England. Gordon makes claims for which there is absolutely no evidence. She talks about things like how Anne felt about the Earl of Lincoln's sisters or how Anne's father felt about interacting with the Earl's widowed mother, as if there were a paper trail. There is not. I know--because I have read all the Bradstreet biographies and criticism and because I have been looking for similar information. This book may be "readable" but it is completely unreliable.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Johanna Rittenburg on March 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I LOVED this book and couldn't put it down - It traces the life and work of Anne Bradstreet, America's first poet, whose story carries a very modern message. "Mistress Bradstreet" is vital reading TODAY for several reasons: 1) it inspires any present-day American who is bent on holding on to their passion, voice, faith and family in times of great upheaval and change, and 2) It fills in missing chapters of history of those women leaders, creative thinkers, and pioneers who continue to shape the world. 3) Finally, Gordon's writing is gorgeous, combining the best of storytelling, biography and history.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Herschel Greenberg VINE VOICE on December 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
After working on a detailed project about Anne Bradstreet's poetry and prose (I argued whether or not she should be considered as only a Puritan poet) for my Master's class, I feel I have a good understanding of her life and work. Charlotte Gordon's book offers a refreshing biography on Bradstreet. It reads more like a story rather than a fact by fact accounting of Bradstreet's life. As such, it covers Bradstreet's life starting in England and ending in Andover in the New World. This makes the book accessible to nearly any reader interested in Bradstreet's life. The bibliography at the end of the book is fantastic - anyone doing research on Bradstreet will find what they are looking for here. Clearly, Gordon did a ton of research before writing the book.

However, the book includes only small amounts of Bradstreet's poetry and prose - that material which supports Gordon's topic. I recommend having Bradstreet's original material next to you in order to read the full references, or read Bradstreet's work first, then her biography. In addition, the other problem I had with Gordon book is that several of the scenes about the hardships of life in the New World seem to be a combination of stories about that time. In other words, we dont really know what happened during Bradstreet's childbirths. But we do know what women experienced in the 1630's. Several of these sections felt as if they were conveying the hardships of people in general rather than an actual biography of Anne Bradstreet. That is why I felt this was a story about Bradstreet. Also, I would have liked to see an actual timeline of events in Bradstreet's life for quick and easy reference.

Overall, if anyone is interested in Bradstreet's life and what she dealt with in the New World, I would recommend this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Theodore R. Spickler on May 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this by a geneological accident. Anne Bradstreet is my great (to the ninth) grandmother and so the book was expected to offer a few tid-bits of an ancestors life in between probably too much dull poetry. As you can tell I am not a student of feminist literature and had rather low expectations for Gordons effort and boy was I surprised! This turned out to be a "page turner". Charlotte Gordon is an entertaining writer and skillfully intermingled all manner of puritan lore, english history, and life-on-the-frontier gossip with a fascinating story of Annes life. By the time we finally got to the poetry I was actually ready and eager. The ambience of the times was so well described that Anne's poetry full naturally into place and was a fit and welcomed presence. This is an epic tale of hardship and the distress of puritan belief. If Oprah got a hold of this book it could easily end up as major best seller. Do not stay your hand. BUY IT!
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