A “strikingly smart” novel dramatizing the life of a highly unconventional duchess in seventeenth-century England (Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation).
Chosen as a Lit Hub Best Book of 2016, an Entropy Best Book of 2016, and one of Electric Literature’s Best Novels of 2016
Margaret the First is based on the life of Margaret Cavendish, the shy, gifted, and wildly unconventional seventeenth-century duchess. The eccentric Margaret wrote and published volumes of poems, philosophy, feminist plays, and utopian science fiction at a time when being a writer was not an option open to women. As one of the queen’s attendants and the daughter of prominent Royalists, she was exiled to France when King Charles I was overthrown. As the English Civil War raged on, Margaret met and married William Cavendish, who encouraged her writing and her desire for a career.
After the war, her work earned her both fame and infamy in England: at the dawn of daily newspapers, she was “Mad Madge,” an original tabloid celebrity. Yet Margaret was also the first woman to be invited to the Royal Society of London—a mainstay of the Scientific Revolution—and the last for another two hundred years. This is a gorgeous and wholly new approach to imagining the life of a historical woman.
“The duchess herself would be delighted at her resurrection in Margaret the Firs . . . Dutton expertly captures the pathos of a woman whose happiness is furrowed with the anxiety of underacknowledgment.” —TheNew York Times Book Review