THE ARDENT YEARS by Janet Stevenson
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Fanny Kemble, the heroine of this exciting novelized biography, came of a 19th century English acting family, and at the age of 19, rose to fame in both London and America. Later she married Pierce Butler, a wealthy young American, and it is with their marriage that this book is concerned. Fanny was an electric personality, far ahead of the ideas of her time, and Pierce, though he loved her, had been raised in a society, that kept women in the home and slaves on the plantations. Fanny's love, loneliness and bewilderment in this society are only revealed more clearly to her by her friend, Lucretia Mott, the Quaker Abolitionist and Women's Rightist. If women, like Negroes, are slaves, then it is Fanny's duty to try to enlighten Pierce, not only for the sake of their marriage but for society. On this theory she goes with him to one of his rice plantations, a marshy hell where Negroes are bred and worked like cattle. Fanny defies Pierce- in trying to help them- and ideas transcend personal love. The marriage itself disintegrates into a terrible battle for the possession of the children, which Fanny finally permits to become public in order to show the effects of the utter lack of legal rights for women. Both Fanny and Pierce are victims, in a sense, of a changing of ideas of freedom in the world. But it is Fanny who survives to become a famous Shakespeare reader; a lonely, stout, strong woman, whose gifts finally transcended all rules.... A stirring tale of fairly wide appeal by the author of Weep No More (1957).

Pub Date: April 25th, 1960
Publisher: Viking