Meredith Berkman
August 06, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season
Frances Sherwood
Fiction, Historical Fiction

We gave it an A-

In this historical novel, Frances Sherwood dramatically re-creates the teeming streets of 18th- century London and the venerable salon in which Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women, was both an outspoken participant and the only female. (Were Wollstonecraft alive today, she might be a welcome addition to The McLaughlin Group.) Other members of this high-minded kaffeeklatsch included poet William Blake, English-born pamphleteer of the American revolution Thomas Paine, and writer William Godwin, who later became Wollstonecraft’s husband and the father of her daughter, Mary, who grew up to marry poet Percy Shelley and write Frankenstein. Despite the fascinating characters, Sherwood’s Vindication is uneven; it is, by turns, melodramatic (our heroine, who has several hot affairs, spouts passionate dialogue that would be at home in a romance novel) and brilliant (Sherwood paints a powerful psychological portrait of a free thinker). In the end, though, you want to read more about Wollstonecraft’s remarkable life — and more remarkable fiction from Frances Sherwood. A-

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