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The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  208 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
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 child
Paperback, Revised edition., 384 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by Penguin (first published 1974)
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The greatest irony of Wollstonecraft's life was that she couldn't quite follow what she preached. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was a vitriolic attack on the 18th century's idea of femininity and the destructive nature of passionate love, yet ironically she herself fell in love (very passionately!) with an unfaithful man who abandoned her when she was pregnant with their daughter. Consequently, twice she attempted to commit suicide and each time failed pathetically. She was a fierce, egoc ...more
Martine Bailey
Mar 01, 2015 Martine Bailey rated it really liked it
For a long time I have wanted to read this account by the wonderful Claire Tomalin, of the life of Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary is one of the extraordinary figures of her era – prickly, troubled, courageous and impassioned. She also experienced the French Revolution at a time when, like her fellow Francophile Wordsworth, ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive’ – in the early days, at least. We follow Mary’s difficult early life in London, from her formative feelings of being overlooked within the ...more
Courtney Johnston
I've never read 'A Vindication of the Rights of Women', and I had only the cloudiest idea of its actual contents and argument before reading this book. But I felt like I should respect and admire its author.

Mary Wollstonecraft makes that bloody hard. It's not Tomalin's fault - she writes a very evenhanded life, that both sticks up for Wollstonecraft at times, and admits to her poor behaviour and judgement at others. But Wollstonecraft herself; undeniably smart, undeniably stifled and frustrated
So interesting and well-written! Plus, it was nice to read a biography of someone slightly more likable than Dickens (the subject of the last Tomalin bio I read). Tomalin paints an intelligent and sympathetic portrait without glossing over any of Wollstonecraft's flaws -- she emerges as a real, brave, and vital woman whose ideas were (unfortunately) far, far ahead of her time. The analysis of the state of feminism in the decades after Wollstonecraft's death is particularly interesting (and ...more
Sep 26, 2012 Vrose199 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing woman and an amazing life, right in the centre of the turbulent times in which she was living! She's so bright and strong-minded and fearless - a real inspiration. And Tomalin paints an incredible, fully formed portrait, complete with flaws (she doesn't flinch when describing some instances where Mary behaves very badly) - what a tragedy that she died before her daughter could know her.
Feb 05, 2016 Antenna rated it it was amazing
After somehow failing to appreciate Mary Wollstonecraft’s importance, perhaps because of the anti-feminist backlash which arose after her death and dominated British society until the C20, I have at last been won over by Claire Tomalin’s excellent biography, rightly praised by the historian Plumb: “There is no better book on Mary Wollstonecraft, nor is there likely to be”.

Mary is portrayed very honestly, warts and all, as often controlling and opinionated, in her youth prone to dominating less i
Nicholas Whyte
May 16, 2015 Nicholas Whyte rated it it was amazing

This was the biography that put Tomalin on the map; I had previously enjoyed her Samuel Pepys and Jane Austen, and this did not disappoint either. I must admit that I knew very little about Wollstonecraft other than that she wrote the Vindication of the Rights of Women and then died giving birth to Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. But I now know that hers was a fascinating life at a fascinating time.

I had simply no idea about any of this, and there was so much to take in: the intellect
mis fit
Apr 16, 2015 mis fit rated it liked it
wollstonecraft seemed to really rub people the wrong way, maybe bordering on having an annoying personality. she wrote about what she cared about deeply, but people thought her books were technically crap. she had a huge heart and capacity for love, which often left her sad, obsessive, and pretty damn broken up about the way people treated her.... needless to say, she is close to my heart. :)

this biography is definitely worth reading. gave me a much better understanding of the time that A Vindic
Sarah Johnson
Jun 12, 2012 Sarah Johnson rated it it was amazing

One of Tomalin's earlier biogs. Her elegant, wise and sympathetic handling of this extraordinary woman's life is even-handed: I expect someone has written a life in which Mary is shown more dramatically to be a victim of men at every level. One tiny gripe from a birthing professional: in Mary's time midwives were the best people to attend births, doctors were a menace, frankly and the terrible details of Mary's death of septicaemia following a retained placenta and PPH indicate how little more
Feb 03, 2011 Ellen rated it it was amazing
I'm not ordinarily the type to read biographies, but since I was headed to London after Christmas, I wanted to read Wollstonecraft's because I knew I'd be able to find some places relevant to her life while I was there (she's one of my personal heroes). This book did not disappoint, and it was also written in a very entertaining way, certainly not a dull biography. Wollstonecraft was an imperfect woman, she obviously had her flaws, and her life was full of drama, depression, and difficult ...more
Angela Montgomery
Dec 16, 2012 Angela Montgomery rated it really liked it
A somewhat unsympathetic view of Wollstonecraft (the author's not anti-feminist), but still worth reading if you're interested in her life. She is made out to be a bit of a fool at times, which I found hard to take. I guess we're all fools sometimes, but it came out a little harsher in this biography than in some others. Her (presumed) mood disorder is treated a little dismissively (like she's just acting out). However, I learned a lot, and you do get a firm sense of her historical context.
Jun 06, 2016 Katharine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very readable biography of a fascinating woman. Claire Tomalin does an excellent job of bringing Mary Wollstonecraft and her times to life. She doesn't idealise her subject but shows her as a brave but difficult woman forging a career for herself at a time when the options for woman were very limited. An interesting read.
The biography of.Mary Wollestonecraft one of the Philosophers behind the French Revolution. A most interesting biography that like others I have read about women show them coming to life and changing society against the odds.
J. Alfred
Dec 03, 2011 J. Alfred rated it liked it
I'm not the type to read a biography for the heck of it, but this was engaging and well written. Wollstonecraft emerges as a tragic figure, sometimes admirable and sometimes pitiable. This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in W. herself or feminism in general.
Erin Piorier
Feb 23, 2016 Erin Piorier rated it really liked it
This is a great book and well worth your time. You can about this interesting and troubled early feminist and about the whole era in which she lived. It's like a crash course in European intellectual activity in the late 1700s. Tomalin also wrote a good bio of Jane Austen.
Jane Massy
Jun 23, 2014 Jane Massy rated it really liked it
Tomalin is a superb sympathetic but clear eyed biographer. An essential read for anyone interested in feminism, in English and European history and literary history before during and after the French Revolution.
Jan 08, 2011 Caroline rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book very much. I have read it through at least 3 times and will re-read it again soon.
Nov 14, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I disliked Mary immensely by half way through, but my dislike has turned to pity. She certainly recognized some of societies ills, but her solution led to her own destruction.
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Born Claire Delavenay in London, she was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge.

She became literary editor of the 'New Statesman' and also the 'Sunday Times'. She has written several noted biographies and her work has been recognised with the award of the 1990 James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the 1991 Hawthornden Prize for 'The Invisible Woman The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens'.

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