John Freeman
October 10, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

White (”The Farewell Symphony”) turns from his trademark autobiographical fiction to deliver his most fabulous novel yet, a mock memoir of real-life Scottish-born feminist Fanny Wright, as told by her friend, the likewise real-life author Frances Trollope. Wright first comes to America in 1818 and returns seven years later and creates Nashoba, a utopian community for freed slaves. Narrating late in life, Trollope describes her friend’s career as an agitator and shaper of early American life — while noting the high cost she paid living out her ideals. Wright, she concludes, was ”a blazing ten-log fire sans fire-screen.” And in ”Fanny,” White beautifully inhabits the bitterness of a woman who lived too close to that flame.

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