From Publishers Weekly
Marshall's outstanding debut is a triple biography making clear that Margaret Fuller wasn't the only woman of substance in Transcendentalist circles in 19th-century Massachusetts. The Peabody sisters were bright, gifted, independent and influential; they knew a host of notables, from Abigail Adams to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Oldest sister Elizabeth, who according to Marshall helped start the Transcendentalist movement, ran a school with Bronson Alcott, who named his third daughter in her honor. Mary made a name for herself first as a teacher and writer, and as the wife of educational reformer Horace Mann, who founded Antioch College. Youngest sister Sophia was an artist whose work included illustrations for her husband, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Only Elizabeth, by all accounts the most intellectual of the sisters, never married, though she was in love with both Hawthorne and Mann before either man fell for her sisters—the bonds among the three survived, but they were, in Marshall's words, "prone to covert rivalries and shifting alliances." Marshall has distilled 20 years of research into a book that brings the sisters to life, along with their extended family and friends, and the time in which they matured: a time, Marshall notes, that allowed women to be on a more equal footing than they would enjoy later in the century. The only problem is that her book ends far too soon, covering barely the first half of the sisters' lives, the half the author finds more creative and illuminating. 57 b&w illus. Agent, Katinka Matson.(Apr. 13)
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Marshall immersed herself for two decades in every scrap of information available about the Peabody sisters. She has not only recreated their world, but alsohas appropriately placed them at the center of many important 19th-century reform movements. No longer will Margaret Fuller reign as the lone woman in Transcendentalist circles. The only point of disagreement among reviewers is whether Marshall should have ended the book when she did; the biography takes us through roughly half of the Peabodys lives and careers. Dare we hope theres a sequel in the offing?
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