Miss Fuller by April Bernard


7 Critic Reviews

Bernard skillfully contrasts the public and private sides of Fuller, crafting a book with rich imagery, emotional depth and a poetic rhythm.


    What does one sensitive but ordinary woman makes of a publicly disgraced woman like Fuller, and how do women make use of what they learn from other women?  Miss Fuller is a historical novel that also poses timeless questions about how we see and treat the exceptional and dangerous agents of change among us.  And it shows the price that any one person might pay, who strives to change the world for the better.
     It is 1850.  Margaret Fuller--feminist, journalist, orator, and "the most famous woman in America"--is returning from Europe where she covered the Italian revolution for The New York Tribune.  She is bringing home with her an Italian husband, the Count Ossoli, and their two-year-old son.  But this is not the gala return of a beloved American heroine.  This is a furtive, impoverished return under a cloud of suspicion and controversy.  When the ship founders in a hurricane off Long Island and Fuller and her small family drown, her friends back home, Emerson and others of the Transcendentalist Concord circle, send Henry David Thoreau to the wreck in hopes of recovering her last book manuscript.  He comes back declaring himself empty-handed--but actually he has found a private and revealing document, a confession in letters, of a strong and beloved woman's life like no other in the 19th century.  Her account of the life of the mind and body, of experiences in Rome under siege, of dangerous childbirth and great physical and moral courage--are eventually revealed to her one reader, Thoreau's youngest sister, Anne.
She was the most famous woman in America.  And nobody knew who she was.

About April Bernard

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April Bernard is a novelist, poet, and essayist. Her first novel, Pirate Jenny, was published in 1990; her most recent collection of poems is Romanticism (W.W. Norton, June 2009). Her previous poetry collections are Blackbird Bye Bye,Psalms, and Swan Electric. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including The New York Review of Books,The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, The Nation, and Slate. She has taught widely and was for many years a magazine and book editor in New York City. Her honors include a Guggenheim award, the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, a Whitney Humanities Fellowship at Yale University, a Sidney Harman Fellowship, and the Stover Prize. She joined the English Department faculty at Skidmore in 2009 as Director of Creative Writing and is also on the faculty of the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars. The author lives in Saratoga Springs, NY.
Published April 3, 2012 by Steerforth. 194 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Miss Fuller
All: 7 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 2


Mar 01 2012

Bernard skillfully contrasts the public and private sides of Fuller, crafting a book with rich imagery, emotional depth and a poetic rhythm.

Read Full Review of Miss Fuller | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Below average
Feb 27 2012

Though the structure of the book feels artificial—in part because the imagined letter makes up the entire second section–the overall effect is worthwhile. . .

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The Washington Post

Reviewed by Carolyn See on May 04 2012

I can’t tell you how much I love this book — and think a little less of Hawthorne.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Sarah Fay on Jun 17 2012

Clearly, Bernard was drawn to Fuller as a historical figure, but this attempt to fictionalize her has become stranded between genres...It doesn't evoke Margaret Fuller so much as reach out to her -- but she has eluded this novel's grasp.

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Los Angeles Review of Books

Reviewed by Susan Reynolds on May 06 2012

This is the best kind of historical fiction — the kind that dives right in.

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Unabridged Chick

Reviewed by Audra on Apr 24 2012

This is a smart, quiet novel that provoked righteous indignation in me -- and inspired me to look up Bernard's other works.

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Book Conscious

Reviewed by Deb Baker on Apr 29 2012

The last chapter is lovely, as Anne grasps Fuller’s imperfect but astonishing legacy.

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Judith Spadoni

Judith Spadoni 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list