A quirky, dazzling fiction about the lives, loves and battles of two extraordinary nineteenth-century women.
This is a marvellously spirited, hilarious and touching historical novel - a spoof biography, written by the aging Fanny Trollope, of her friend the Scottish radical and feminist Fanny Wright (born in Dundee and brought up partly in Glasgow). From the start, our narrator is enthralled, but also baffled, by her dashing heroine, who burst into her life as a young woman, red hair flying, spouting utopian ideals. The infatuated Mrs Trollope follows her idol first to France in the 1820s, where Fanny Wright has an affair with Lafayette, then to America, where Fanny meets Jefferson, (another implied affair), and becomes dedicated to the abolition of slavery. When Fanny sets up a utopian commune in Mississippi, poor Mrs Trollope and her son and a French artist go out to join her: but instead of a paradise, they find a version of hell. More adventures follow, taking both women across land and sea to fulfil their contrasting destinies. This is a story packed with comic incident, strange characters and vivid setting, from Scottish tenements, English drawing-rooms and Parisian salons, to the mud of the Mississippi and the colour and noise of Haiti.
As Fanny Trollope sits in her Florentine villa gazing back across the troubled landscapes of their lives, she digresses hopelessly about her own family, none of whom she understands. Yet we realise that in her radical friend's slipstream she has found her own voice, and her own, startlingly sensual form of love. In the end, we wonder, which Fanny is the real heroine? Beneath the warm humour and touching revelations of character run currents of seriousness - the nature of idealism, the clay feet of heroes, the illusory power of the American dream. In this powerful and vibrant novel, love and politics, sex and power, race and place are intertwined.
“Bold and brilliant...Instructive, provocative, funny, poignant and timely...Combines such exuberant invention with such informed historical insight”
“Wonderfully eccentric...Never less than convincing...Brilliant”