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Miss Fuller: A Novel Paperback – April 3, 2012
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"This is a perfect read for book clubs or humanities classes: spare, elegant, and with a wealth of potential material for discussion." -- Historical Novel Society
If you only have room for one small book in your picnic basket or your carry-on luggage for that flight to the beach, you might want to make it Miss Fuller by April Bernard, a slender, haunting historical novel about the life and death of 19th century feminist pioneer Margaret Fuller, literary colleague of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Every word in this too-brief wonder of a book is just right: precise, luminous, evocative. – Julia Keller in the Chicago Tribune
"Recent biographers have plumbed Fuller's life, teeming with incidents and arresting personalities . . . but their endeavors lack the spare elegance of April Bernard's novel." – Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"In simplest terms, the question with any book review is 'should I read this book? Is it worth my time?' The answer: yes! The question might go a little deeper. Does this book do something for me? Again, yes! April Bernard’s Miss Fuller is a must-read if you’re a fan of historical fiction, a lover of beautifully printed small format novels with gorgeous cover design, or if you’re interested in early American writers like Hawthorne, Thoreau, Emerson, and of course the controversial early feminist, Margaret Fuller. If your interests are exclusively in structure and story arcs, this novel’s a gem." – Nancy Freund at Necessary Fiction
“This is the best kind of historical fiction. . . . Miss Fuller is a rich insight into the intellectual camaraderie and competition among the Transcendentalists. The story fairly bursts from the pressure of the early feminists striving to be heard at home, abroad, and in the hallowed halls of academia. . . . In many ways, this is the most robust portrait we have of Fuller because Bernard uses fiction to fill in the gaps between Fuller's own words and the perceptions of others that history has tossed us.”
– Susan Salter Reynolds in Los Angeles Review of Books
"An intense, fascinating jewel of a novel . . . I can't tell you how much I love this book." – Carolyn See in The Washington Post
"A warmly sympathetic leap into the psychology of a compelling iconoclast. . . . These are the chambers of conjecture into which biographers are not permitted; Ms. Bernard enters them with sensitivity and brio." – The Wall Street Journal
"Bernard weaves a fascinating novel." – The Boston Globe
"Poet and novelist [April] Bernard takes an unusual approach to historical fiction in this supple and concentrated tale. . . . Bernard's elegant, witty, vivid, and tragic portrait reclaims a vilified yet revered and influential thinker and visionary." – Booklist
“Fact meets fiction in this intriguing historical novel expounding on the life and times of Margaret Fuller, a freethinking feminist writer and friend of Emerson and Thoreau, among others, on the Concord scene. In poet Bernard’s rendering, readers have an additional lens in Anne, a fictionalized sister of Thoreau’s, who, in her youth, attends one of Fuller’s Boston salons for ladies and then, later in life, becomes privy to a ‘lost letter’ written from the ship that would have returned Fuller from Europe to the States had it not sunk off Fire Island, killing Fuller, her Italian husband, and their young son. . . . Though Fuller’s untimely death was marked by sadness, it is the widespread relief evocatively etched in these pages that startles: no one knew what to make of this outspoken woman of dubious virtue, and a mother at that, leaving even the most progressive minds of the time to wonder if her tragic end wasn’t something of a blessing after all.” – Publishers Weekly
“A letter from one woman to another washes ashore. This letter details the adventurous, fantastic, revolutionary life of Margaret Fuller. But will her words unite or divide? Will anyone read her letter at all? . . . Bernard skillfully contrasts the public and private sides of Fuller, crafting a book with rich imagery, emotional depth and a poetic rhythm.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Highly recommended for those interested in the life of Margaret Fuller and for those who like feminist literature such as Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.” – Library Journal
"With beguiling intimacy and unparalleled eloquence, April Bernard recreates Margaret Fuller's tumultuous last years. Her account of the secret life of this very public woman is both painfully specific to women's lives at that time and yet wonderfully universal. Fuller emerges from these pages in all her glorious complexity, as do the other transcendentalists who so reluctantly admitted her to their company. An absorbing and, finally, heartrending novel." – Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture and The House on Fortune Street
"Miss Fuller is heartrending and utterly convincing, an aria and elegy for one of the great tragic souls of American literature. And what a dream cast April Bernard has assembled from Fuller's cosmopolitan wanderings: Henry Thoreau and his sister; the Hawthornes; George Sand; Mazzini; the great Polish poet Miczkiewicz. Bernard herself is a poet of extraordinary reach and panache. 'Where is our promised wind?' Fuller asks. 'Impatience is our companion.' – Christopher Benfey, author of A Summer of Hummingbirds and Degas in New Orleans
"April Bernard makes Margaret Fuller as likable and difficult, as inspiring and sad, as she must have seemed to her contemporaries, who were shocked by her revolutionary ideas and unorthodox life. Original, brilliant, and moving, Miss Fuller meditates ruefully on the awkwardness of genius, especially if one were a nineteenth-century woman." – Alice Mattison, author of The Book Borrower
“A beautifully written and constructed gem of a novel that totally absorbed me into its world.” – Caryl Phillips, author of Crossing the River
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
When Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) died in a shipwreck off Fire Island, she left myriad questions regarding the last few years of her life. What had she REALLY done in Italy? Why was she attracted to Count Ossoli? Where and when had the couple gotten married, if at all? Why wasn't Margaret forthcoming in her letters and newspaper dispatches with the details and nuances of her personal life? What had happened to her book manuscript? The sketchy circumstances that led to her loss both saddened and confused her friends and family members at the time. Twentieth- and twenty-first-century scholars have continued to dig for the definitive answers, but have been left to speculate on some of the salient details as well. Enter writer April Bernard, who has come up with some possibilities that can tie up many of Margaret's loose ends, all presented in the package of a short novel.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One provides some backstory about Margaret, about the shipwreck, and about Henry David Thoreau visiting Fire Island to look for bodies and belongings. In this version, he finds a writing desk with papers in it. When he eventually peeks inside, he discovers a lengthy letter that Margaret penned to Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, in which she revealed EVERYTHING. Henry puts the desk aside. Part Two is the text of those sheets.Read more ›
April Bernard's novel didn't disappoint, and I don't think one needs to be familiar with Fuller to appreciate and enjoy this story. Set in 1850, the novel opens with Fuller's tragic death -- a shipwreck that claimed her as well as her husband and son -- and Henry David Thoreau combing the beach for their bodies and their effects. His younger sister, Anne, muses on Miss Fuller and her legacy, her thinking, her life. But a good portion of the novel is an unsent letter from Margaret Fuller to Sophia Hawthorne, Nathaniel Hawthorne's wife, and it shows us Fuller's real fears, passion, and blind admiration for those in her life.
In some ways, the novel is less about Fuller than about the people around her, the men and women she called friends and loved like family, and the uncomfortably cold way (to me) they dissected Fuller and her life. This is a novel about reputation, too -- at least, that's something I took away. As Melanie Benjamin's Alice I Have Been made so clear for me, Fuller has to be accountable to the ludicrous judgments of the men around her. Her wisdom is tied in to her 'purity', and her normal, reasonable, understandable choices become the fodder with which the people she idolizes disparage her.
That the author is also a poet is no surprise, as there's a really lovely sense of language here, neither heavy nor ethereal. I'm reminded of other poetic novelists, like Anne Carson, and master wordsmiths like Ellen Feldmen and A.S. Byatt.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a brilliant recreation of another epoch, and other people, Henry Thoreau, his sister Annie, a painter, and like him a naturalist and collector of shells. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Elizabeth A. Socolow
I have long been an admirer of Margaret Fuller, but for some reason, this book didn't inspire me. It's hard to write historical biography and the author just wasn't able to bring... Read morePublished on June 8, 2013 by judith Kessinger
Skip the whole book and just read the "letter." The story is boring and tedious. The only interesting thing is the actual letter from Miss Fuller. What a waste of time.Published on March 21, 2013 by Callalilly
MISS FULLER, A Novel
I opens in the Thoreau household with Anne (a fictional adopted sister) helping Henry prepare to go to Fire Island where the merchant ship went... Read more