Blog Tour Book Review: Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldmen

Terrible Virtue coverAbout Terrible Virtue

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: Harper (March 22, 2016)

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.

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Happy Wednesday everyone! Thanks for stopping by my blog today to check out my post as part of the tour for Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman. I’d like to send a big thank you to the author, as well as to the publisher Harper Collins and TLC book tours for giving me opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Terrible Virtue is a work of historical fiction based on the life of Margaret Sanger, a woman who advocated for birth control in a climate that was definitely not friendly to the idea of women being in control of their bodies and futures. Since this is historical fiction, not everything in this book is going to be solidly factual but I did feel as though it read much more like a memoir than historical fiction which is something I ended up enjoying because I do enjoy reading books of that genre.

I am new to Margaret Sanger and I consider myself to be pretty new as well, to feminist literature both fiction and nonfiction. I am wanting to expand my reading of feminist literature so when presented with the chance to read this book, I had to and was really excited to read it. It was an interesting and light read although there were areas that I wished we were given more detail on. I am not super familiar with the life of Margaret Sanger so I’m not sure what in this book is factual and what is not but I do believe that it gave me a good idea of her life, what she advocated for and what she went through because of her beliefs and her conviction. I do think that she is someone who is important in the feminist movement but I found it hard to really connect with her I think because we are shown both sides of her life – Margaret the Revolutionary and Margaret the mother. She was human and this book definitely showed that but if anything, I really really felt for her children and obviously I felt for all of the women she was fighting for. It just shows how much she sacrificed in order to research and fight for her cause.

I am giving this book 3.5 stars because I did like it, I enjoyed reading it and felt like I did learn a bit about Margaret Sanger. This book actually makes me pretty interested in learning more about her and the topic of the history of birth control. I definitely recommend reading this if you are looking to read more feminist literature or learn a little bit about the climate Margaret Sanger was operating in or even to learn a little about her life.

Happy reading everyone!

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Ellen Feldman Author PhotoAbout Ellen Feldman

Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow, is the author of five previous novels, including Scottsboro, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and Next to Love. She lives in New York City.

For more information on Ellen and her work, please visit her website, www.ellenfeldman.com.

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