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Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  417 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
Brilliantly researched and wonderfully written, LOVE AND CAPITAL is a heartbreaking and dramatic saga of the family side of the man whose works would redefine the world after his death.

Drawing upon years of research, acclaimed biographer Mary Gabriel brings to light the story of Karl and Jenny Marx's marriage. We follow them as they roam Europe, on the run from government
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Published September 14th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2011)
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Matthijs Krul
Aug 19, 2012 Matthijs Krul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The genre of the personal biography, when applied to famous historical figures, more often than not falls in the traps of sensationalism, moralism, or hagiography. This is not least the case when it comes to persons of considerable political controversy, such as Karl Marx and his friends and family. However, Mary Gabriel’s personal biography of the Marx-Engels clan studiously and brilliantly avoids all cliches and all sensationalism, portraying the characters ‘warts and all’, sympathetically but ...more
As a daughter of two Marxist political economy professors, I grew up with this picture on the wall of our living room, which we called "uncle Marx". No joke.

A couple of years ago, my mom and dad read this biography and couldn't stop talking about it for months. I said I'd read it eventually, so they'd stop telling me about every single thing in the book, but to be honest I wasn't really looking forward to it. It's so looong. I'd never read a biography before (plenty of autobiographies and memoi
Feb 21, 2012 Clif rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Any useful history must be written with thorough knowledge of the subject but this one adds sensitivity and affection to make the subjects breathe.

I was given this book and opened it with little more knowledge of Marx than of his appearance on the marker at his grave and the fact that he wrote a huge book. Engels was his sidekick.

Such "knowledge" is typical. It's a big world and we have only the most superficial concept of most things in it. Love and Capital was a wonderful revelation and educat
I have decided to not continue with Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution. It is not a bad book, but it deals primarily with Marx and his philosophy, not his family relationships nor his personality. It is very factual, a bit dry, filled with quotes and footnotes, a good history book. I read 20% and felt it was not giving me what I personally was looking for - who was he as a person?

My husband is going to read it instead, and then we can discuss it.

I have removed i
Kenghis Khan
Nov 23, 2014 Kenghis Khan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Five stars should be reserved for books like this.

A marvelous, beautiful and utterly amazing work by Gabriel, this book is without question the best book I have read in years. Written with wry humor, engaging tone, and incredible suspense that builds up to the magnificent tragedy that was the private life of the Marx family. One would be hard-pressed to find a more fitting reminder of the immense power of nonfiction. The book has all the trappings of a Jane Austen or even Tolstoy - a family, dev
This is an extraordinary work of scholarship which clearly earns its position as a National Book Award Nominee. It tells the story of the love between Marx and his wife Jenny. It is a story of the Marx family too, and of the love, loyalty, interconnection and the enduring friendships of this family with Friedrich Engels and Helene (Lenchen) Demuth.

Karl Marx's reputation of the villain of history doesn't square with the portraits of a bearded intellectual with the Santa Claus cheeks and eyes. Thi
Charles Stephen
Apr 28, 2012 Charles Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kind of an unusual focus for a book on Karl Marx, so I guess that's what piqued my interest. Gabriel's descriptions of the squalor of the working classes in Manchester, England, where Marx visited in 1845, connect in my mind to the decline of the middle class that we've been experiencing in recent decades from increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.

Brilliant in the last 100 pages where Gabriel wove to a knot the lives of all Marx's offspring. The only one to witness Marx's i
Virginia Bryant
Nov 05, 2011 Virginia Bryant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This seems an especially appropriate time to review seeds of former revolutions, for in knowledge of history there is wisdom. In the minds of the masses, the ideals and concepts of Marxism have been pretty much destroyed by Lenin and Stalin. No conceptual framework for new forms of living can succeed without a corresponding change in our values toward the the sacral spirit in all life, which is another subject. That said, those with the most power have consistently and successfully sought to spo ...more
Jun 15, 2012 Maxine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to view Karl Marx objectively regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum. One tends to see him only in terms of his political and economic theories and rarely gets a glimpse at the man behind these theories. It is even rarer to get a glimpse of his home life, his family, his friendships, or his faults. In Love and Capital, author Mary Gabriel takes us on a highly readable stroll through the Marxes' private lives and gives us a peek at a very complex and also very human man ...more
Mark Desrosiers
Karl Marx figured out how capital works, but the other half of this title -- that's still a mystery after reading this unrelenting account of the tragedies that befell the marriage of Karl and Jenny Marx, not to mention their fascinating daughters. The repetitions of debts, hemorrhoids, carbuncles, drunken binges, letters to Engels, and dead children that mark this narrative make this a tough slog overall. But Mary Gabriel does provide a better picture of the mechanics of Marx's influence and in ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like almost everyone I have heard a lot about Marxism and Communism, but I knew very little about the man who started it all. This biography is excellent examination of the life of Karl Marx. Now, there are many biographies of Marx but what I think makes this book so interesting is the focus, by the author, on Marx's wife Jenny and his day-to-day life and family. I had no idea that Marx lived most of his life in obscurity and poverty. He was know from some of his writings among those radicals, b ...more
Oct 01, 2012 Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mary Gabriel intended to write a biography of Karl and Jenny Marx's three daughters. This turned out to be impossible without an account of Jenny, which in turn required an understanding of Karl. Exhaustive research into correspondence and writings brings to life the personal struggles of the extended 'Marx family', including Engels, Jenny, Lenchen, Laura (and Paul Lafargue), Jennychen (and Paul Longuet) and Eleanor in writing, transcribing illegible handwriting, translating, publishing and supp ...more
Love And Capital is more than a single biography: it’s the biography of an entire family juxtaposed with the evolution of Socialism in the 19th century. Marx was only able to sustain his cerebral onslaught against capitalist friendly regimes because his family gave him the fuel to keep him going: the fuel of love. Their sacrifices, in addition to Engels’ devotion and tremendous financial patience, made him the political icon we all know today. Exile, drama, betrayal, suicide, and the fairer aspe ...more
Oct 06, 2013 Jbondandrews rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What to say about this beautiful book! Such a riveting story! I could hardly put it down. Such poverty did people live in in those days and how little has changed for anyone since those times. Karl's daughters were such brilliant women and yet they suffered so because of who they were and the ungrateful men they associated with. If only they could have been treated as true equals or not felt that they needed someone that much that it compromised their own lives. Women should know themselves fair ...more
Will Shetterly
Jan 11, 2012 Will Shetterly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I understand all the reasons some people didn't like this book. Maybe I would've liked it less if I'd tried to read straight through it in a day or two. I read a chapter every now and then, and I thought it was great. If you're not especially interested in Marx's life, this is probably more than you want. If you want a more dramatic view of the birth of scientific socialism, Tristram Hunt's book about Engels may be better for you, because Engels had the more dramatic life. But for me, this book ...more
Dec 06, 2011 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A monster at nearly 600 pages of European history. Not for the weak-minded, faint-hearted, nor the traditional Victorian reader. Crosses genres of family biography and intellectual history and surprisingly the first book in English to treat Marx within the "microscopic world" of his family and home life he increasingly preferred to the macroscopic world of events his theories attempted to describe. The great revolutionary died in an armchair next to a fire, having barely outlived his wife and el ...more
May 13, 2012 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this painstakingly researched boook is not to be undertaken lightly, however, it is deeply reqwarding. Not only a detailed history of the time in which Karl Marx and Frederich Engels produced the works that eventually brought about fundamental social change across the globe, it is also a compelling story of the complex, tumultous extended family that formed around Marx and his aristocratic bride, Jenny von Westphalen. Read it for the micro-history: a rich batch of human stories about devotion, p ...more
Jan 23, 2012 patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible book of history. A must read for all history buffs. The personal story of the life of Jenny and Karl Marx and their family. Marx was German but spent the most of his life living and writing in England. Jenny was from German elite society and the mix is interesting. A love story that lasted their entire life together. Marx was the father of the labor unions. A timely read in the era of our dimishing middle class. The research by Mary Gabriel is extraordinary and I highly recommend i ...more
May 21, 2014 charlotte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fascinating. I was completely sucked into this human portrait of Karl, Jenny, Friedrich (Engels), and their wider family -- whether biologically related or not. Drawing from extensively archived personal letters, Gabriel manages to give a very detailed and intimate look into the up-and-down personal lives of that famous revolutionary circle. She also does a bang-up job explaining the historical context and the development of Karl Marx's theories. The book humanizes Karl and Friedrich, ...more
Morris Massre
May 11, 2012 Morris Massre rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has turned out to be a fascinating book from the start. You don't have to be a Communist or Socialist sympathizer to enjoy what this story brings to the table. What Marx and his wife did was attempt to help the masses of people who were being victimized by the industrial revolution. He never espoused violence. However, Lenin took his system way out of context and Pol Pot took it to the extreme.
Jon Marc Smith
Jul 23, 2012 Jon Marc Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read in years. Essentially the love story of Marx, Jenny, their daughters, and Engels. An extraordinary story. Gabriel had access to all sorts of letters no one has seen outside of Russia for years, so lots of new info here. I can't recommend it highly enough, even if you're not that interested in economics, politics, or history -- it's just a fantastically dramatic story.
Feb 01, 2012 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an intense read and I would not have picked it up if I wasn't studying the Communist Manifesto. It's a well-crafted love story about Karl and Jenny Marx. This is the first book I found that talks in length about Jenny. The book contains a lot of details. I highly recommend this book for history buffs and students studying Marxism.
Lee Razer
Read 40%, which I feel is enough. There's much less about Karl and Jenny's relationship here than I think I was led to expect, probably because there's not just a whole lot of surviving source material. Jenny comes off as entirely saintly, and the reader will be impressed that she put up with a lot out of her love for Karl, leaving behind an aristocratic upbringing for revolutionary penury and begging because Karl could not/would not earn money to support them, as such practicalities were far le ...more
Frank Spencer
Oct 03, 2011 Frank Spencer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whether you are in it for the political philosophy (you'll be enlightened) or the family drama (you'll be saddened) this book is a must read.
Christopher Roberts
This is one of the books that has made me fall behind on my pledge to read one hundred books this year, because it is so damn long and dense. Oh well, it was wroth it, even though I think it was a little light on the love and heavy on the capital. This reads like a very good biography of Marx that includes additional information about his marriage and children. I could have used more of that quite frankly. In the middle portion of the book we don't get a lot of Jenny Marx, but what I did learn ...more
Oct 01, 2015 Karthick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a journey through the eventful life of the mammoth of a man called Marx. In my opinion, this is the best biography of Marx and Jenny - and of Engels too - that is available on the market. The book reads like the Biblical tragedy of the book of Job; of Marx putting himself and his loved ones through endless pain and suffering for his faith in the Divine of the Revolution. Few other works have recorded the personal sacrifices of the Marx family with such an eye for detail and with such loving ...more
The services rendered by Marx and Engels to the working class may be expressed in a few words thus: They taught the working class to know itself and be conscious of itself, and they substituted science for dreams.” V.I. Lenin, excerpt from a speech read at the funeral for Eleanor Marx, one of his daughters.

I finally finished this biography last night, and for the most part the story of Marx and his family is nothing less than tragic. This biography helped me to appreciate the sacrifice that Marx
Feb 09, 2014 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a biography of Karl Marx and his family. I studied Marx’s theories in college, but I knew nothing of his life or personality. Marx was, I learned, arrogant, self-centered, combative, a heavy drinker, a master procrastinator, and, ironically and tragically, completely inept at managing his personal finances (if it weren’t for Frederick Engels’ financial generosity, he likely never would have published his masterwork, Capital, and his family would have suffered a great deal more). He was a ...more
Allizabeth Collins
Mary Gabriel's Love and Capital is an account of the lives of Karl and Jenny Marx and their family before, during, and after Karl Marx's revolutionary idea - Capitalism/Socialism.

Being a history-buff at times, I knew I had to read Love and Capital. I have read textbooks on Marx' political role, but never had I read an account that talked about the man himself; his unyielding love of his wife and children, the trials that almost destroyed everything he'd ever built, and, over
Potsdam Public
Dec 16, 2011 Potsdam Public rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bob
'Love and Capital' is first and foremost a family history which portrays Karl Marx warts and all. For twenty or more years, the Marx family lived in penury, often only a step ahead of the debt collectors and the landlord. The Marx family languished while the pater familias railed against the excesses of governments and bourgeoisie alike. The family suffered severely from health problems and the loss of three of their children due to squalid living conditions and the lack of money for health care ...more
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Mary Gabriel was educated in the United States and France, and worked in Washington and London as a Reuters editor for nearly two decades. She is the author of two previous biographies: Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored, and The Art of Acquiring: A Portrait of Etta and Claribel Cone. She lives in Italy.
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