Mary Wollstonecraft led a peripatetic life as a child, somewhat downwardly mobile as her father systematically failed to make a success of his various ventures. Hers was a childhood of loss and bereavement, of petit bourgeois socialising, of never quite finding a suitable suitor or sustainable marriage. There seems little evidence of the political firebrand here - she is an unattached gentlewoman caught up in the need to find a role and a place; until the State provided education, the governesses of England were a major industry, so it is inevitable she should find herself teaching in an elite boarding school, preserving the Protestant supremacy in Ireland. Here, she reacts, convinced that children should stay at home with their families and not be ostracised to some boarding school. It's then that she finds her vocation - writing. But had her inspiration already been fired by her wakening sexuality? Janet Todd argues that Mary had a number of lesbian relationships during her life, and that these were of vital importance in shaping her emotional responses to the world. Mary Wollstonecraft occupies a vital place in the feminist pantheon. It would be too easy for biography to slip into hagiography or iconography. Instead, Janet Todd offers us a very human Mary, confused, lost, searching, trying to find some stability and certainty in life. She is very much a product of her times and could well have ended up as part of its detritus - a lonely, failed governess. Instead, she emerges as a resilient, resourceful woman who is prepared to follow her talents and believe in her abilities. There's an inspirational quality here which would benefit many a reader.