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The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft [Kindle Edition]

Claire Tomalin
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Witty, courageous and unconventional, Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the most controversial figures of her day. She published "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman", travelled to revolutionary France and lived through the Terror and the destruction of the incipient French feminist movement; produced an illegitimate daughter; and married William Godwin before dying in childbed at the age of thirty-eight. Often embattled and bitterly disappointed, she never gave up her radical ideas or her belief that courage and honesty would triumph over convention.

Winner of the Whitbread First Book Prize in 1974, this haunting biography achieved wide critical acclaim. Writing in the New Statesman, J H Plumb called it, "Wide, penetrating, sympathetic. There is no better book on Mary Wollstonecraft, nor is there likely to be"

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About the Author

Claire Tomalin was born in London in 1933. She has worked in publishing and journalism all her life, becoming literary editor first of the New Statesman and then of the Sunday Times, which she left in 1986. She is the author of, among other books: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft; Shelley and His World Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life; The Invisible Woman and the extraordinarily successful biography of Samuel Pepys. Other books written for Penguin are: Jane Austen: A Life and a collection of memoirs entitled Several Strangers.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The birth of a movement? 4 Dec. 2004
Fascinating story of the life of a strong, complex and tragic figure. Intelligent and highly readable biography. Gives a well-balanced look into both the intellectual and personal life of a woman widely considered to be the first feminist. Inspirational and addictive reading. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two sides to the coin 25 May 2011
Claire Tomalin's enthralling and very detailed (occasionally slightly too detailed) biography of the life of Mary Wollstonecraft is a masterly piece of research and reveals a surprisingly conservative side to this early and most influential feminist writer. The political and social upheaval during Wollstonecraft's lifetime produced a surge of interest in the prevailing male-centred conduct books. In response, an increasing number of writers, many of whom were women, protested against the inequities of British patriarchal society and the lack of proper educational opportunities for women. Tomalin's biography gives a very clear description of this background and includes information about many of Wollstonecraft's contemporaries. It is a fascinating read.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent biography 8 Sept. 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have literally just finished reading this book and feel compelled to write a relatively short review. I am left with a feeling of sorrow yet high admiration for Mary Wollstonecraft as a person, her indelible unconventionality, her (shamefully unknown) legacy and her dramatic and tragic life. I say 'shamefully unknown' because, unless one expresses interest in this particular area in history, not many people will know who she is/was.

I am tempted to read some of Tomalin's other books if this one is anything to go by. More than once I had tears in my eyes at the end, that is how much the author pulls you into Mary's life.

All in all, this is an excellent biography, and I'm sure you will agree with me if you read it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life and Death of Mary wollstoncraft 24 Sept. 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have long been interested in the writing of Mary Wollstonecraft. Claire Tomalin's book is just what I needed to help me further understand how M.W. became the feminist she was,particularly in a historic period when women were not required to have an education.
I would recommend any interested in M.W. to read this book first before reading in detail her writings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great book, shame about the edition.... 27 Mar. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent and moving account of a woman taking on the dominant, restricting forces in British society at the end of the 18th Century. Her political dissent is comprehensive, from party politics to the education of daughters. Wollstonecraft was both intellectually and emotionally driven, and this bio catches both the acuteness of her thinking and the irascibility of her temper. Parallels with the contemporary situation of women and the recurrent dismissal of feminist politics are unequivocally implied by this account of Wollstonecraft's personal and political struggles. Details of who was where in France at the time of the French Revolution were difficult for this reader to follow, but the later sections about Wollstonecraft's death and the subsequent betrayals of her ideas by friends and acquaintances is by turns moving and maddening.

Get the book, but not this edition, which is so shabby. You can't tell where some quotations begin and end, some are in French and some are not translated, it's difficult to access footnotes with my kindle, and the illustrations are dreary monochrome. There are the usual glitches in line spacing and oddly laid out words that I associate with Kindle versions. As a book it is tremendous; as a 'product' it's awful and off-putting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A vindication of Mary Wollstonecraft 7 Mar. 2012
Another good biography by Claire Tomalin. This time the subject is sadly not as widely known as she deserves to be, but as a pioneering author on the subject of not just the rights of women but of humankind, with a turbulent private life her story deserves to be heard.
Tomalin gives a well rounded view of her subject. She does not portray her as an icon, we see the good, the bad and the ridiculous sides of her. We also find out about the times that formed her in just the right amount of detail.
The chapter on her legacy is detailed on contemporary writings for and against women's rights and on the biographies of minor players in her story but I would have liked to know more about what life was like for her daughters and husband in the years following her death. We are informed that her eldest daughter Fanny killed herself after "her existence in the Godwin household had become intolerable to her" but not why. Maybe Tomalin believes the reader will already know this and the story of Wollstonecraft's more famous daughter Mary Shelley but I did not feel that this knowledge should have been taken as read and wanted to know Tomalin's version of the girls' future.
The notes and references were excellent, but I was frustrated at the large amount of French that was not translated. My copy was published in 1974, maybe later editions provide a translation, but I do feel that it is a kind of intellectual snobbery to assume that all readers will have enough education in French to cope with the extensive French quotations, I could not and it did take away from my enjoyment of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring 24 Nov. 2013
By Sarah
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having loved all Claire Tomalin's books up until now this was a disappointment. I think it must have been her first - it is very dry, dull and goes on far too long. Nothing like the interesting and easy prose of her later books on Charles Dickens, Ellen Ternan etc.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent, fascinating iinsight into this woman's world, the French revolution and enlightened thinking in England in her days.
Published 1 month ago by Benet
5.0 out of 5 stars As described, fast delivery
Great book.
Published 7 months ago by N. Jackson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 8 months ago by finthebiscuitman
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing historical and personal account of the late eighteenth...
As ever, Claire Tomalin gives an absorbing account of her subject and gives not only a coherent picture of Mary Wollstonecraft's life but an accurate portrayal of the turbulent... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Jean Wright
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Extremely detailed account not only of Mary but of many other people of the time
Published 11 months ago by Mrs. Sheila J. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography. Well worth reading.
As usual, Claire Tomalin has written a well researched interesting and easy to read biography.I read anything she has written and am never disappointed.
Published 12 months ago by Margaret pleming
5.0 out of 5 stars very good reading
one of the best on the subject of this important lady it gives a very good picture of the ideas and thoughts of the period
Published on 21 May 2013 by W. A. E. Loughhead
5.0 out of 5 stars mary wollstoncraft
An early work of Claire Tomalin, but well researched and written. I particularly liked the passaged conveying excitement of the French Revolution, the turmoil of new thinking and... Read more
Published on 20 May 2013 by manxman
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!
Claire Tomalin is slowly becoming my favourite historical biographer. This book is very readable, creating a very human picture of Mary Wollstonecraft's life. Read more
Published on 4 Aug. 2012 by Nic S
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