Silva’s gripping, meticulous novel (after Mr. Dickens and His Carol) opens as midwife Parthenia Blenkinsop arrives in North London to help Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin deliver her second child. Though the future Mary Shelley arrives safely, a male doctor’s treatment for placental complications gives Wollstonecraft an agonizing, life-threatening infection. Blenkinsop, who stays with the Godwins during the crisis, suggests she distract herself by telling the baby her life story. Wollstonecraft’s narrative is one of a childhood shaped by a violent, improvident father and unloving mother. Her intense, volatile emotions and unconventionally defiant ideas about misogyny and the patriarchy find few outlets until, at 16, she meets botanical illustrator Frances Blood, with whom she forms a passionate friendship. She is devastated when Blood dies of consumption 10 years later, but her grief bears fruit in her writing, which brings her influence, freedom, and friendship with some of Europe’s leading intellects. Her romances—with married artist Henry Fuseli and scoundrel Gilbert Imlay, with whom she bears an illegitimate daughter—are disastrous before she finds a true partner in Godwin. Short chapters written from pragmatic Blenkinsop’s perspective balance Wollstonecraft’s turbulent story and evoke the class differences as well as the commonalities between the era’s women. Silva’s heartbreaking but inspiring work captures the despair and joy, convictions and contradictions of an extraordinary woman.