Friday, June 28, 2013

Miss Fuller

Finished Miss Fuller by April Bernard. The novel imagines the last days of Margaret Fuller's life through a long journalistic letter written to Nathaniel Hawthorne's wife Sophie. When Fuller's friends learn that she, her young son, and Italian husband have perished in a shipwreck off the coast of Fire Island, they send Henry David Thoreau to the site of the wreck in search of Fuller's long awaited manuscript about the Italian revolution. Thoreau learns that a wooden lap desk has been scavenged from the wreck. Hoping the manuscript is inside he purchases the desk and returns to Concord. Inside he finds Fuller's letter to Sophie. He is troubled by the very existence of the letter and refuses to read it. He alerts Hawthorne to the fact of the letter, but he tells Thoreau to destroy it, that he and Sophie want nothing to do with it

Although they see her as strong, forceful, intelligent and determined, Fuller's friends among the Transcendentalists feel awkward about her death. Some were not that fond of her in life. While they admired her genius, they turned prudish and puritanical when they heard of her baby and Italian marriage. In doubting Fuller's goodness and virtue they are hypocrites. Emerson and others refused her monetary assistance, thus she and her small family had to return from Italy as the only passengers on a merchant ship. Had her friends sent her the aid she requested they would probably not have lost her.

Fuller's letter is rich, honest and true. She explains her choices to Sophie, already suspecting that her friends disapprove of the path she has chosen. When the letter is finally read, it is by Thoreau's younger sister Anne, nearly forty years later. This book examines the awkwardness and frailties of human relations. How fear, jealousy, rumor, gossip and sheer misunderstanding can undermine even the most altruistic of societies.

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