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Margaret the First

Margaret the First

Danielle Dutton's book about Margaret Cavendish seems a fitting first post on the new site. Margaret Cavendish was a seventeeth-century Duchess around the time of the English Civil War & the reign of Oliver Cromwell. But don't worry if your knowledge of British history is lacking; Dutton does a fantastic job of presenting a portrait of the first woman in England to write for publication. Margaret Cavendish published poems, philosophy, feminist plays and utopian science fiction; she was both a tabloid celebrity (called "Mad Madge") and the first woman invited into the Royal Society of London. The book spans most of Margaret's life, switching from first-person narration to third-person narration about two-thirds of the way through. Throughout the story, there are small chapters (a few lines) with historical updates. I.e.: "The King of England was convicted of treason. Then the King of England was dead. It was Tuesday. It was 1649. Parliament hacked off Charles I's head outside the Banqueting House..." But the best parts of the novel (novella? it was short) in my opinion were the real Margaret's writings and tidbits from her letters. Like when she laments about the scandal over her publishing:

A woman cannot strive to make her wit without losing her reputation

Hell yeah, Margaret!! This being a work of fiction, Dutton gives her Margaret a distinctly feminist persona. My favorite was when her husband was hosting a salon, and the members were debating if the universe was filled with invisible planets. Then someone proposes they shift the debate to the nature of women, instead of the universe. Margaret, who had been quiet throughout the whole night, says "You will find sir, women as difficult to be known and understood as the universe." A short, worthwhile read about an intriguing - and often overlooked - woman. Rating:  ★★★

You'll Grow Out of It

You'll Grow Out of It

Dancing with the Tiger

Dancing with the Tiger