Review: Terrible Virtue

March 23, 2016 Fiction, Historical Fiction 12 ★★★

Review: Terrible VirtueTitle: Terrible Virtue
Author: Ellen Feldman
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: This was a fascinating story, but given that it was fictionalized, I’d particularly have liked to feel more of an emotional connection.

This is the  “story of one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the twentieth century: Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood—an indomitable woman who, more than any other, and at great personal cost, shaped the sexual landscape we inhabit today. This complex enigmatic revolutionary was at once vain and charismatic, generous and ruthless, sexually impulsive and coolly calculating—a competitive, self-centered woman who championed all women, a conflicted mother who suffered the worst tragedy a parent can experience.” (Source)

I was intrigued by this book because of both the description of Margaret Sanger’s complicated personality and because of the historical significance of her life. The book delivered on both counts. Margaret Sanger’s work, her personal motivation, and the change she helped facilitate were the centerpiece of this book. Although I can’t speak to the accuracy of any aspect of this fictionalized account of her life, the author certainly presented many perspectives on Margaret Sanger’s life and personality as well. Unfortunately, the way these other perspectives were injected into the story was one of my least favorite parts of the book. Random sections broke from the mostly third person description of Margaret’s story, with commentary on her life written as though a family member or acquaintance was talking to Margaret. I found these sections disruptive.

I found the story hard to emotionally connect with because of these disruptions and for two other reasons as well. First, the author skipped almost all the most important moments in Margaret’s life. At the times when Margaret would be expected to be most emotional, we only heard about events after the fact. Secondly, the author didn’t include much speculation about Margaret’s emotions. In a nonfiction account, I’d be prefer that. At the point an author has gone to the trouble of making things up, I’d like some made up emotions to make the story read like engaging fiction. In my ARC, I was double annoyed because there was no note letting us know what was fictional about the account. This meant that I got neither the emotional engagement of fiction nor the education of nonfiction.

Despite spending a long time outlining my one complaint – lack of emotional engagement – I did enjoy this book overall. Although I’m not going to rave about it and push it on you, if you’re at all interested in the topic, I would recommend giving this a chance. I think this would pair very well with some nonfiction to help you determine what parts of this book are fact or fiction.

For some other perspectives, check out the other stops on the tour.

12 Responses to “Review: Terrible Virtue”

  1. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    I saw this book at the library and was curious about it, but I think I’ll give it a pass; I think I would also be disappointed by the lack of both emotional engagement and historical notes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • DoingDewey

      You might pop open the finished version and see if they’ve added historical notes, but if not, I think passing is probably the right choice.

  2. Deepika Ramesh

    Although I am curious, it’s hard for me to connect with a book if there is no emotional engagement. I will keep this in my list though. Thank you for the post. 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      It’s possible you’d connect with it where I didn’t. Sometimes it’s hard to say why a book just doesn’t do it for me!

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.