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on July 24, 2008
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.
To give a broader and more balanced view of the Puritans I highly recommend two books, "The Valley of Vision" a wonderful collection of Puritan prayers that will make you wonder where all the arrogance went, and "The Puritans as They Really Were" by Leland Ryken which explains some of the perceived arrogance they are so often attributed with today. There were certainly arrogant and corrupt Puritans (Salem Witch Trials anybody?), but even there it may surprise people to learn that many of the leading Puritans of the day were absolutely appalled at what happened in Salem. All of this to say, it is exasperating to read another book towing the academic party line on the Puritans combined with little cultural and historical context, and I don't recommend it.
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on June 29, 2007
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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on March 19, 2005
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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VINE VOICEon December 3, 2005
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. There are better books out there that are more biographical and do a better job describing Bradstreet's poetry and prose (look for a book by Josephine Piercy). But if you want to read the story of Bradstreet's life, then this book does a good job at conveying the ups and downs of Puritan life in the New World.
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on May 1, 2006
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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on November 13, 2012
I gave this only four stars because I have read only the sample, but I am guessing that when I read the whole book, it will be FIVE STARS PLUS! My husband and I just finished taking turns reading aloud the sample of this book on my Kindle...a very interesting, enthralling first chapter. When my voice got tired, my husband asked to take over. Charlotte Gordon has written this with a voice that drew us into the story, and left us wanting more! I did a paper on Anne Bradstreet for an independent study in college several years ago, but the first chapter alone of this book has refreshed AND ADDED new insight about Anne Bradstreet. Now I want to learn more about her, to perhaps renew and add to my own previous work about her and her works. Charlotte Gordon's book promises to be a great "I don't want to put this book down" read!!!!
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on September 29, 2013
This book was really interesting, it gave a lot of insight into Bradstreet's life, but there were a ton of details about the men and people around her and not very many actually about her so I felt like the name was misleading.
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on December 1, 2008
Very interesting and well done. Not for children however owing to the detailed graphic accounts of what happens to someone who is burned at the stake, including woodcuts of pregnant women subjected to this form of execution.

Pioneering in this country was not for the faint hearted and required a lot of intelligence and organizational ability from the women of the household...
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on April 30, 2005
I first discovered Anne Bradstreet as an undergraduate in the 1970's and fell in love with her work. Over the years I have researched her personal history in depth. Why is so little written about her, I wondered. Doesn't anyone else get it? Well, Charlotte Gordon gets it.

I read this book hungrily, delighted to have found a kindred spirit in Ms. Gordon. Her understanding of the spirit and times of this passionate Puritan are compelling. This is a must read for anyone seeking a better understanding of our Puritan ancestors. I disagree with the author on some details, mainly dates, but she paints the big picture skillfully. This one is definately worth your time.
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on April 18, 2009
Many people find that Anne Bradstreet's name is familiar because they've read her poems, or because John Berryman has paid a tribute to her. But few realize that Anne Bradstreet was the first published poet--either male or female--here in the New World. Back then, her slim volume of verse was a bestseller. In Ms. Gordon's opinion, Anne Bradstreet was an electrifying personality period in our history.

Anne came to America when she was eighteen-years-old, in 1630, and was among the first wave of settlers in Massachusetts. She arrived just ten short years after the Pilgrims. Though a prominent member of her Puritan community, Anne was also a rebel, flaunting the image of seventeenth century women as too intellectually weak to tackle the male realms of law, science and (the most difficult of all) poetry.

Even though Anne faced hardships such as near starvation, death of loved ones, and isolation, she was determined to write.

Ms. Gordon discovered Anne Bradstreet's writing when she moved to Massachusetts to begin work as an English teacher. Down the street from Ms. Gordon's residence was a partially overgrown plaque stating that near that spot stood the home of Anne Bradstreet. When Ms. Gordon went to school to teach, she discovered a few of Anne's poems in her textbook. Determined to find out more, Ms. Gordon delved deep into history. What she learned turned into this book.

MISTRESS BRADSTREET is easy to read. Even though I don't generally care much for poetry, I enjoyed learning about the life of this early American poet and historical Massachusetts. I expected that it would be like reading a textbook, but it wasn't.

Teachers, home school parents, and fans of poetry and history might enjoy learning about Anne Bradstreet and her life and hardships. Indian massacres and other difficulties fill the pages of this book. MISTRESS BRADSTREET definitely reveals what it was like to be a woman writer in Puritan America. $27.95 (hard cover). 340 pages.
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