Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pg. 99: "The Peabody Sisters"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Megan Marshall's The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism.

About the book, from the publisher:
Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia Peabody were in many ways our American Brontes. The story of these remarkable sisters — and their central role in shaping the thinking of their day — has never before been fully told. Twenty years in the making, Megan Marshall's monumental biograpy brings the era of creative ferment known as American Romanticism to new life. Elizabeth, the oldest sister, was a mind-on-fire thinker. A powerful influence on the great writers of the era — Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau among them — she also published some of their earliest works. It was Elizabeth who prodded these newly minted Transcendentalists away from Emerson's individualism and toward a greater connection to others. Mary was a determined and passionate reformer who finally found her soul mate in the great educator Horace Mann. The frail Sophia was a painter who won the admiration of the preeminent society artists of the day. She married Nathaniel Hawthorne — but not before Hawthorne threw the delicate dynamics among the sisters into disarray. Marshall focuses on the moment when the Peabody sisters made their indelible mark on history. Her unprecedented research into these lives uncovered thousands of letters never read before as well as other previously unmined original sources. The Peabody Sisters casts new light on a legendary American era. Its publication is destined to become an event in American biography.
Among the praise for The Peabody Sisters:

"Outstanding ... Marshall has distilled 20 years of research into a book that brings the sisters to life."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"An engrossing account, replete with both penetrating insights and interesting details."
--Mary Ellen Quinn, Booklist, ALA, starred review

"An excellent biography ... a colorful and sympathetic portrait of these remarkable women."
--Francine Prose, New York Times Book Review

"A stunning work of biography and intellectual history ... the intellectual equivalent of a triple axel."
--William Grimes, New York Times

"[A] terrific read and fascinating history."
--Rachel Kadish, author of Tolstoy Lied

"This monumental biography answers every question about its subjects but one: Why aren't the Peabody sisters famous? . . . Vibrant."
--Sue Corbett, People

"The real fascination is in [the Peabody sisters'] linked lives, and those have now been ably re-created."
--Michael Kenney, Boston Globe

The Peabody Sisters was a Pulitzer finalist in biography and memoir in 2006, and has won the Mark Lynton History Prize, the Frances Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians, and the Massachusetts Book Award in nonfiction.

Marshall has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times, Slate, and other publications. She is now at work on a biography of Ebe Hawthorne, sister of Nathaniel, for which she has received a Radcliffe Institute fellowship.

She wrote in Slate about reading the Peabody sisters' letters.

The Page 99 Test: The Peabody Sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue