Monday, April 4, 2016

Julie's Review: Terrible Virtue

Author: Ellen Feldman
Series: None
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 272
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A fascinating novel about a complex and forward thinking woman
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: In the spirit of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, the provocative and compelling story of one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the twentieth century: Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood—an indomitable woman who, more than any other, and at great personal cost, shaped the sexual landscape we inhabit today. The daughter of a hard-drinking, smooth-tongued free thinker and a mother worn down by thirteen children, Margaret Sanger vowed her life would be different. Trained as a nurse, she fought for social justice beside labor organizers, anarchists, socialists, and other progressives, eventually channeling her energy to one singular cause: legalizing contraception. It was a battle that would pit her against puritanical, patriarchal lawmakers, send her to prison again and again, force her to flee to England, and ultimately change the lives of women across the country and around the world. This complex enigmatic revolutionary was at once vain and charismatic, generous and ruthless, sexually impulsive and coolly calculating—a competitive, self-centered woman who championed all women, a conflicted mother who suffered the worst tragedy a parent can experience. From opening the first illegal birth control clinic in America in 1916 through the founding of Planned Parenthood to the arrival of the Pill in the 1960s, Margaret Sanger sacrificed two husbands, three children, and scores of lovers in her fight for sexual equality and freedom. With cameos by such legendary figures as Emma Goldman, John Reed, Big Bill Haywood, H. G. Wells, and the love of Margaret’s life, Havelock Ellis, this richly imagined portrait of a larger-than-life woman is at once sympathetic to her suffering and unsparing of her faults. Deeply insightful, Terrible Virtue is Margaret Sanger’s story as she herself might have told it.  

Review: Terrible Virtue is a story about a driven, complex but flawed woman. Margaret Sanger is determined to make life better for women. She goes to incredible lengths to teach women about means to not get pregnant. She wants women who live in the tenements to be in control of how many children they have, especially because with each pregnancy it becomes more of a burden.

I would almost say that for most of her adult life, Margaret had tunnel vision on her mission to give women the power over their bodies that most desired. I don't think Margaret was going to win any mom of the year awards because she was so often gone from them and when she was around, she was too busy. I'm not saying that she wasn't a good mom because it was evident that she loved her  children fiercely, she just loved her mission more. She might have also loved Bill but she wanted the freedom to be who she was and do as she pleased. She didn't want to be tied down.

Her affairs and sexual appetite were part of who she was and who she wanted to be. She didn't want to be defined by the times. She definitely wanted to buck the system and she did. She turned heads wherever she went. Men wanted her and usually they got her, if she was interested in them as well. Women admired her and wanted to be her.

Her drive is what got her to break through a system that held women back. It is what abled her to get funding for her first women's center, even if it was closed by the police.Most would say she sacraficed her family to help women; I don't think that's what she would say. She would say it was her purpose in life.

I shudder to think where we might be if she had not been as successful as she had been. As I was reading this book, I was also thinking about how a lot of what she went through seems to be replaying itself today, which is sad. She would be so disappointed that women are still fighting for equality in some ways and that what she fought for is still being fought for.

I went into this novel knowing very little about Ms. Sanger and I do believe that Ms. Feldman did her life justice. I think that she portrayed Ms. Sanger's strong voice and drive extremely well. As I usually do with historical fiction, I googled on Ms. Sanger.

If you are looking for a novel on a strong, pioneering woman than look no further than Terrible Virtue.



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