"The duchess herself would be delighted at her resurrection in Margaret the First.... Dutton expertly captures the pathos of a woman whose happiness is furrowed with the anxiety of underacknowledgment." --Katharine Grant, The New York Times Book ReviewMargaret the First dramatizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, the shy, gifted, and wildly unconventional 17th-century Duchess. Read more...
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"The duchess herself would be delighted at her resurrection in Margaret the First.... Dutton expertly captures the pathos of a woman whose happiness is furrowed with the anxiety of underacknowledgment." --Katharine Grant, The New York Times Book ReviewMargaret the First dramatizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, the shy, gifted, and wildly unconventional 17th-century Duchess. The eccentric Margaret wrote and published volumes of poems, philosophy, feminist plays, and utopian science fiction at a time when "being a writer" was not an option open to women. As one of the Queen's attendants and the daughter of prominent Royalists, she was exiled to France when King Charles I was overthrown. As the English Civil War raged on, Margaret met and married William Cavendish, who encouraged her writing and her desire for a career. After the War, her work earned her both fame and infamy in England: at the dawn of daily newspapers, she was "Mad Madge," an original tabloid celebrity. Yet Margaret was also the first woman to be invited to the Royal Society of London--a mainstay of the Scientific Revolution--and the last for another two hundred years. Margaret the First is very much a contemporary novel set in the past. Written with lucid precision and sharp cuts through narrative time, it is a gorgeous and wholly new approach to imagining the life of a historical woman.
"In Margaret the First, there is plenty of room for play. Dutton's work serves to emphasize the ambiguities of archival proof, restoring historical narratives to what they have perhapsalways already been: provoking and serious fantasies, convincing reconstructions, true fictions."--Lucy Ives, The New Yorker
"Danielle Dutton engagingly embellishes the life of Margaret the First, the infamousDuchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne." --Vanity Fair
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-01-18
- Reviewer: Staff
Dutton’s remarkable second novel is as vividly imaginative as its subject, the 17th-century English writer and eccentric Margaret Cavendish. Even as a shy young girl, Margaret Lucas covets fame and writes prolifically. Years later, she is an attendant to the queen, and when the English Civil War begins, Margaret flees with the court to Paris, where she meets and marries the aristocratic William Cavendish. Blossoming in an intellectual milieu that includes Descartes and Dryden, she begins to write even more seriously. Back in England after the war ends, she publishes wildly unconventional books to a mixture of admiration and scorn, refusing to write anonymously like other women of her time, or to let her lack of formal education silence her. Though Dutton doesn’t shy away from the “various and extravagant” antics (such as attending the theater in a topless gown) that earned her subject notoriety and the nickname “Mad Madge,” her Margaret is a woman of fierce vitality, creativity, and courage. Incorporating lines from Cavendish herself as well as Virginia Woolf, whose essays introduced Dutton to Cavendish, this novel is indeed reminiscent of Woolf’s Orlando in its sensuous appreciation of the world and unconventional approach to fictionalized biography. Dutton’s boldness, striking prose, and skill at developing an idiosyncratic narrative should introduce her to the wider audience she deserves. (Mar.)