The Margaret-ghost: a novel
This fascinating novel by Barbara Novak blends painstaking scholarship and compelling fiction writing as it follows the lives of two women, one the subject of the other's research. Tenure-track professor Angelica Bookbinder is researching a book on the woman Henry James called "the Margaret-Ghost": the brilliant, New England feminist Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), who was a friend and contemporary to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Horace Greeley, among other nineteenth-century notable figures. Fascinated by Fuller's personal life as much as by her brilliance, Angelica focuses her research on the role that love played in Fuller's life, examining both her heterosexual and homosexual liaisons, while trying to understand her lifelong struggle to balance her intellectual strengths with her emotional needs. Driven by the belief that Fuller's life was dominated by a frustrated quest for love, Angelica passionately pursues her research, all the while aware that in doing so, she is straying from the academic straight and narrow. At the same time, Angelica finds her own romantic dilemmas beginning to echo Fuller's. Moving between nineteenth- and twentieth-century Boston, Angelica follows her research with an almost carnal obsession, bouncing between the advances of a female colleague and a burgeoning relationship with a fellow tenure-track professor. Her new lover, a Harvard scholar studying Herman Melville, appreciates Angelica's intellect--when it does not challenge his--but seems to prefer the body of someone Angelica contemptuously calls "the Baywatch girl." Juxtaposing nineteenth-century high culture and contemporary pop references with often-hilarious results, Novak probes thenature of male-female relationships, questioning if certain patterns transcend time. Satirical, erudite, and beautifully written, The Margaret-Ghost investigates relationships, academia, love, and research, creating a captiv
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The Margaret-ghost: a novelUser Review - Book Verdict
In respected art historian Novak's second novel (after Alice's Neck), Angelica Bookbinder is a thirtysomething Boston literature professor on sabbatical who hopes to win tenure by writing a book about 19th-century American intellectual, writer, and early feminist Margaret Fuller. Educated in the classics, Fuller was a brilliant conversationalist; an editor (with Emerson) of the Transcendentalist newspaper, the Dial; and an advocate for the rights of the mentally ill and the welfare of prostitutes. Trying to decide which aspect of Fuller's life to examine, Angelica begins probing Fuller's search for romantic fulfillment with both men and women. Equally captivating is the mystery of Fuller's years in Italy, where she gave birth to a son and possibly married the child's father. As she delves into Fuller's romantic liaisons, Angelica begins exploring such relationships in her own life, which leads to odd entanglements. The steady revelation of these two women's parallel lives keeps the reader's interest going, as does the sly, dead-on satiric observations. Peppering her text with cultural anecdotes from both eras, Novak also captures the centuries-old dilemma about whether it's best to follow one's heart or one's head. Recommended for all academic and most public library fiction collections.-Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ ...