Thursday, June 9, 2011

I've Got A Crush On: Amanda Foreman

I discovered Amanda Foreman last week, reading Vogue magazine's article about her featuring the charming picture (partially cropped, missing the next page of image ) to the left, of Amanda and her five children, four girls named Helena, Xanthe, Halycon, Hero and her son Theo. I love her children's names. I am obsessed with the names of things, and unique and wonderful names please me like a wonderful work of art. I was immediately drawn. And the more I read, the harder I crushed.

Amanda is a historical-fiction writer with a staggering intellect and ability to amass enormous amounts of information on a subject and turn it into thrilling literature. Her first bestselling book The Duchess of Devonshire was turned into the movie with Kiera Knightly, and you can read all about that and more at Mrs. Foreman's website.

Here's an wonderful article about her at The Independant

In another interview with Harper Collins, when asked about Georgiana- the Duchess she ended up writing a novel on, Mrs. Foreman replied:

′I was a graduate student at Oxford and had just started my doctorate on attitudes to race and colour in late 18th century London. As part of my research I was reading a biography of Charles Grey, who, as a young man, proposed the motion to abolish the slave trade. The biography also referred to his tragic love affair with Georgiana and quoted some of her letters to him. But the way the biographer referred to her, dismissing her as some inconsequential, rather sad figure, contrasted - and I felt wrongly - with the brilliance of her letters. And from then on I just kept thinking about her, convinced that someone was wrong, and that this woman whose words had so moved me had clearly been mistreated.

′I started to neglect my thesis to the extent that one day I realised that I′d spent six months reading about Georgiana and doing nothing on my doctorate at all! So I went to the authorities and threw myself on my knees and said please, please will you let me change my subject and write about her? Fortunately for me, they agreed.′

I love that she was a student at Oxford- immediately impressive. I love that she saw through the lens of history her own way, and I love that she had the balls to throw herself and her skills toward her passion not knowing if it would work out in the end.

In reading the interview with Vogue, I was impressed with her capacity for structured, organized and illuminated thought and creativity combined with a hunger for real love and close relationships. Many successful people find it extremely daunting- if not impossible, history shows- to balance enormous success and personal achievement with close family life, and Mrs. Foreman, by her account, is doing just that. I found her words about her children touching in addition to relating exactly on why she wanted and has a big family:

Foreman absorbed a feeling of profound isolation in her childhood..... For a long time, I felt incredibly lonely. It's just a part of who I am.... It's one reason Foreman offers up for wanting a large family. " I would have had six or seven or eight ( *if it weren't for a fractured pelvis during her last pregnancy ) I felt a need like my head was going to fall off if I couldn't have more, perhaps from feeling isolated and lonely inside. So I created an island, a peninsula. "

Her honesty here is moving to me, the vulnerability of revealing a deeply personal reason for wanting a big family, a reason I could echo myself. I created an island, a peninsula. Yes.

Mrs. Foreman's most recent accomplishment truly boggles my mind- a new novel, twelve years in the making, on no less than the ENTIRE CIVIL WAR. Read about A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War and say Holy shit! That is awesome! As a woman, Amanda Foreman makes me damn proud. Graduate, wife, mother, historian and writer, she is taking on her passions proudly and exceedingly well. CRUSH.

Marion said...

There must be something in the air this're the 3rd blog I've read about fabulous books today and I posted about a book that just slayed me.

I must read this author! That photo (and her children's names) is amazing, so beautiful. We need MORE articles about strong women. Hooray to Vogue for this fabulous article and thanks for sharing it, Maggie!


Lola Sharp said...

Love her. :)

I hope all is well, love. Miss you.

Jeanne said...

I hadn't heard of her. I'm going to have to find that book.

With you on the names!

Ooh, and I saw on Stacy's blog that you got a short story published. (Did I already leave you a note about that? If so, forgive my early onset Alzheimer's). Congratulations!

yogurt said...

A daughter named Hero. I like that. And I like historical fiction. I'll have to check her out.

Jason, as himself said...

She sounds amazing.

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

Remarkable!This is the first time I have heard about her and now I am super intrigued. And proud.
Her new novel sounds incredible. I would love to read it.

p.s. I created a peninsula too but love the fact that my children can canoe out with me on all sorts of adventures. It works because I think we lonely children are all so damn determined to make it work! And we love with all our hearts..

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