Review: Fierce Convictions

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, AbolitionistFierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hannah More was called the First Victorian, but I kept thinking she might also have been the First Female Blogger.

More, a woman who gained admiration for her wit and wisdom then used those gifts to promote moral causes, was a prolific writer well-known in her own day but whose works probably wouldn’t appeal to the modern reader. She was not as timeless as Jane Austen, but she was timely: her essays and novel conveyed the importance of moral behavior to the newly literate lower classes and stirred the upper classes out of their moralistic stupor. She was a bestselling author in her own day, but her influence has been all but forgotten in the present day.

Karen Swallow Prior has clearly done a very thorough job researching Hannah More and this biography sheds a steady and clear light on a woman who deserves to be remembered. Prior never stoops to sensationalizing More, but is careful to be accurate in depicting every aspect of More’s life. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help wishing occasionally that the writing was a bit more colorful and the plot line of the narrative a bit more compelling. I certainly had to keep coaxing myself to read rather than feeling an urgency to keep reading.

If I could make one change to this book, it would be to begin with a better description of who Hannah was and why her work ought to be celebrated BEFORE diving in to a detailed description of who her parents were, what her childhood was like, who her friends were, etc. I wish I had read right away instead of waiting to discover until page 136 that “More was the single most influential woman in the British abolitionist movement.” Once I knew how influential she was to Wilberforce and how devoted she was to the cause of abolition, I was eager to know more about her.

Hannah More’s vision for the way a good story could captivate the imagination of a reader likely laid the groundwork for the many women who’ve written since her time.

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