Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Book Review: Finding Margaret Fuller by Allison Pataki

Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: March 19, 2024
Publisher: Random House
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Accidental Empress,
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Massachusetts, 1836. Young, brazen, beautiful, and unapologetically brilliant, Margaret Fuller accepts an invitation from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the celebrated “Sage of Concord,” to meet his coterie of enlightened friends shaping a nation in the throes of its own self-discovery. By the end of her stay, she will become “the radiant genius and fiery heart” of the Transcendentalists, a role model to young Louisa May Alcott, an inspiration to Nathaniel Hawthorne and his scandalous Scarlet Letter, a friend to Henry David Thoreau as he ventures into the woods of Walden Pond . . . and a muse to Emerson himself. But Margaret craves more than poetry and interpersonal drama, and she finds her restless soul in need of new challenges and adventure.

And so she charts a singular course against a backdrop of dizzying historical drama: From Boston, where she hosts a women-only literary salon for students like Elizabeth Cady Stanton; to the editorial meetings of The Dial magazine, where she hones her pen as its co-founder; to Harvard’s library, where she is the first woman to study within its walls; to the gritty New York streets where she spars with Edgar Allan Poe and reports on the writings of Frederick Douglass. Margaret defies conventions time and again as an activist for women and an advocate for humanity, earning admirers and scathing critics alike.

When the legendary Horace Greeley offers an assignment in Europe, Margaret again makes history as the first female foreign news correspondent, mingling with luminaries like Frederic Chopin, Walt Whitman, George Sand, and more. But it is in Rome where she finds a world of passion, romance, and revolution, taking a Roman count as a lover—and sparking an international scandal. Evolving yet again into the roles of mother and countess, Margaret enters a new fight for Italy’s unification."

With a star-studded cast and epic sweep of historical events, this is a story of an inspiring trailblazer, a woman who loved big and lived even bigger—a fierce adventurer who transcended the rigid roles ascribed to women, and changed history for millions, all on her own terms."

It's 1836 in Concord, Massachusetts and Margaret Fuller is spending time at Ralph Waldo Emerson's house. He is her mentor and friend, which brings her into a literary social circle like none other with Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcott family. Margaret is known to be highly educated, well-read, and extremely intelligent. She is unconventional for her time in that she has no interest in settling down with a man, but has higher aspirations for herself. Over the years, she has taken on jobs, such as teacher, journalist, writer, editor, and more. Some of these jobs she never was paid for, but once she writes an important book on women, her career takes off. She holds conversations with like-minded women to discuss important issues of the time and before she knows it, she is offered a job at the New York Tribune as the first female war correspondent. Her boss sends her to Europe to write about Italy's fight for independence. While there are many important events that occur in Italy, the most important is meeting her future husband, Giovanni Ossoli. He is a Roman soldier and not someone she would necessarily see herself with, but sparks fly and they end up having a child together. She must escape Italy's fighting more than once to bring her child to safety with the end goal of hopefully getting back to America. Allison Pataki's sweeping saga Finding Margaret Fuller highlights the life of an important woman often forgotten in the pages of history.

Margaret Fuller is captivating. I am not sure Pataki made her entirely interesting every second of 
Finding Margaret Fuller as some parts were pretty slow. The first half of the book where Margaret struggles to find her place in Massachusetts and jumps from job to job is a bit boring, to be honest. Her romantic tension with Ralph Waldo Emerson definitely kept it interesting, but I knew she had bigger fish to fry as he was already married and seemed pretty needy. For me, the story took off once she was sent to Italy as a war correspondent. I found this really captivating and her life in Italy jumped off the page. By this point, like any good biographical fiction, I was googling facts about Margaret, because I wanted to see what would happen to her during Italy's fight for independence and was surprised by some of the details about her life.

I was also surprised that I didn't know much about Margaret Fuller. She is an important person when it comes to women's rights and Transcendentalism, so I am glad Pataki is highlighting her amazing life in 
Finding Margaret Fuller. I think readers can agree that Margaret led an important life, one to be remembered, and even though Pataki kept a slow pace at times in Finding Margaret Fuller, I think it was an important and very memorable read--one that I kept thinking about long after I turned the page.

Are you familiar with Margaret Fuller? Are you a fan of Allison Pataki? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.



  1. I love historical fiction but sometimes just recounting a person's life can get slow at times. I'm glad that, overall though, this was a winner!

    1. Yeah, there were some slow parts while she was figuring out her next steps, but once she got established, it really took off! She did so many important things, I am glad I read about her! Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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