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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  570 ratings  ·  96 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
Hardcover, 709 pages
Published September 14th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company
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Oct 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Matthijs Krul
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Kenghis Khan
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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,
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow, I now know so much about Karl Marx and I like him a lot less than I did before I read this book. What he put his family through was awful. Engels was a much more interesting character and as involved in the movement. I much preferred the parts about him and Marx's daughters. Poor Jenny, his wife had such a hard life because of his refusal to get an actual job.
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
Charles Stephen
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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.
Hunter Tidwell
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My words can't do justice to this book. Mary Gabriel is not only a phenomenal story teller, she is just as well a great researcher - the amount of references in this book is astonishing. Being able to now read Marx with the knowledge of the personal and historical contexts he was writing within is illuminating.
Courtney Johnston
You know how you can feel quite comfortable you know a reasonable amount about a topic, say, for example, socialism and Marxism - enough, anyway, to get you through a casual conversation - and then you crack open a biography of Karl Marx and your first discovery is that he's not Russian like you always thought, but actually German? Yeah.

The fact that I clearly actually know NOTHING AT ALL about this period of history or basic economic theory is what kept me ploughing through this 600 page
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Virginia Bryant
Nov 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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 ...more
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Nov 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Will Shetterly
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best historical work that I've read. I'm not even particularly interested in Marxism, but it's impossible not to be fascinated by the story of Marx and his wife, and the writing is absolutely first-rate.

I also often wonder how Marx's father-in-law (Ludwig von Westphalen, a liberal aristocrat) would have felt if he'd known the historical results of his converting an impressionable teenage Karl Marx to socialism. (Sort of similar to whichever Tsarist official ordered the killing of
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jon Marc Smith
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Morris Massre
Dec 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
C.A. Cunningham
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
He did the greatest literary feat a man can do. Marx changed the mind of the world.
-George Bernard Shaw
Frank Spencer
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book attempts to introduce one to Karl Marx as a father, a husband, and a friend. The main character of the book is not Karl but Jenny Marx who chose to live a difficult life with Karl as an absentee father and husband.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best philosophy and history book among the genial novels and the most fascinating novel from all the theoretical books one could ever read.
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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.
“The man who stands in dependence on another is no longer a man at all, he has lost his standing, he is nothing but the possession of another man.” 1 likes
“As intellectuals they were brilliant, incisive, prescient, and creative (but also elitist, cantankerous, impatient, and conspiratorial). As friends they were bawdy, foulmouthed, and adolescent. They loved to smoke (Engels a pipe, Marx cigars), drink until dawn (Engels fine wine and ale, Marx whatever was available), gossip (mostly about the sexual proclivities of their acquaintances), and roar with laughter (usually at the expense of their enemies, and in Marx’s case until tears streamed down his cheeks).” 0 likes
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