Monday, March 28, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Review of Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman + Giveaway!!

Pages: 272 pages
Publisher: Harper 

Publication Date: March 22, 2016


In the spirit of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, the provocative and compelling 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.

The daughter of a hard-drinking, smooth-tongued free thinker and a mother worn down by thirteen children, Margaret Sanger vowed her life would be different. Trained as a nurse, she fought for social justice beside labor organizers, anarchists, socialists, and other progressives, eventually channeling her energy to one singular cause: legalizing contraception. It was a battle that would pit her against puritanical, patriarchal lawmakers, send her to prison again and again, force her to flee to England, and ultimately change the lives of women across the country and around the world.

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. From opening the first illegal birth control clinic in America in 1916 through the founding of Planned Parenthood to the arrival of the Pill in the 1960s, Margaret Sanger sacrificed two husbands, three children, and scores of lovers in her fight for sexual equality and freedom.

With cameos by such legendary figures as Emma Goldman, John Reed, Big Bill Haywood, H. G. Wells, and the love of Margaret’s life, Havelock Ellis, this richly imagined portrait of a larger-than-life woman is at once sympathetic to her suffering and unsparing of her faults. Deeply insightful, Terrible Virtue is Margaret Sanger’s story as she herself might have told it.

What Did I Think About the Story?

It's probably bad to say but, growing up in the times that I have, I've often taken for granted our seemingly inherent women's rights: the right to vote, the right to decide whether or not to get married or have children, the seemingly basic right to decide what to do with our own bodies. But reading novels like Terrible Virtue reminds me that so many woman had to sacrifice and suffer through so much to change the world as they lived it into the world we now have. Margaret Sanger is one such woman, born before her time and one that refused to let anyone tell her what to do or how to live her life. In the capable hands of Ellen Feldman she is allowed to tell her story, with its many ups and downs, and the reader is able to see just how much Margaret, and her many compatriots, had to fight  to make themselves heard.

Terrible Virtue is written as Margaret telling her own story, from growing up poor until her death, as she navigates the often controversial choices she made, justifies the decisions and sets other falsities right. Interspersed with her point of view are short snippets from the points of view of some of those people who's lives she touched - both her husbands, her sister, son, lawyer, lovers, etc. - which all show some point in time she discusses from their point of view, showing how her actions hurt them in some way. I loved this as it helped round out the story and made her feel real. She wasn't a saint or a savior or a martyr as some of the women she worked to educate felt her to be. She did a lot of good, yes, but she was also an absentee parent, a selfish, free-loving woman who used men and moved on without much thought, and an ambitious and attention-loving woman who loved the spotlight as much as she loved fighting for free and easy contraceptives for every woman.

The writing is beautiful and evocative and the author did an excellent job of bringing the early 1900s to life. It covers so much ground - from the slums of New York and New Jersey, to the rich and poor areas of Paris and London, to a workhouse and prison, to what I would call a love commune in Europe - Margaret traveled all over either lecturing and studying or sharing her knowledge with those that needed it and the reader is able to go along for the adventures and experience it all. Some of it was exciting and fun but most of it was hard work and sacrifice and while I admired her for much of what she did it isn't a road I would have wanted to go down.

Margaret Sanger's grand mission to ensure no woman had to have a child they didn't desire, that every child that was born was cherished and loved and that the actual act of lovemaking did not have to lead to birth as a consequence seems so reasonable to our modern ears but, in her time, was salacious enough to lead to censorship and prison. The fact that this did not stop her and her fight to make sure contraception and education would be readily available to every woman, rich or poor, and would not lead to negative consequences to those that employed them makes her a remarkable and admirable woman, even if she was not an admirable wife or mother. Her far-reaching ideals have given all women freedoms that they might not have had without her determination and sacrifice, whether she felt they were sacrifices or not. I loved learning about this impressive rebel woman and Ellen Feldman did a wonderful job of bringing her to life.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I like it. It's very simple and the colors are muted yet eye catching. I might have preferred the woman looking up defiantly but other than that I like it.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of Terrible Virtue in exchange for an honest review! Be sure to continue below for information on the author, the blog tour and how you can grab your own copy!

About the Author

Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow, is the author of five previous novels, including Scottsboro, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, andNext to Love. She lives in New York City.

For more information on Ellen and her work, please visit her website,

Buy The Book

Giveaway Time!!!

I am so excited to be able to offer one copy of Terrible Virtue up for giveaway, open to US residents!! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!

I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on April 4th, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner for their mailing address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to pick another winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.

Good Luck!!

Terrible Virtue Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, March 22nd: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, March 23rd: Doing Dewey

Thursday, March 24th: Bibliotica

Friday, March 25th: Books on the Table

Monday, March 28th: A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, March 29th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, March 30th: bookchickdi

Thursday, March 31st: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, April 4th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]

Tuesday, April 5th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, April 6th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, April 7th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, April 11th: Puddletown Reviews

Tuesday, April 12th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, April 13th: Broken Teepee

Thursday, April 14th: Time 2 Read

Thursday, April 14th: Literary Feline


  1. I am so psyched for this book! Thanks for the opportunity, Colleen. Best regards, Kara S

    1. Yay, I love when a book just makes me want to read it! I think you'll enjoy it, Kara, and you are very welcome!

  2. great review! I'm dying to read this one -- Sanger is such a crazy, complicated figure, but I'm delighted she's being reintroduced to folks! thank you for the giveaway!

    1. Thanks! And I totally agree, she is such a complicated yet fascinating person...unlike anyone else I can think of really. And I'm so glad the book was written because I was not familiar with her at all before!

  3. Women of this era had so many difficulties to face, and we today most certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  4. Okay, using a random number generator my winner of a copy of Terrible Virtue is....Rhonda Lomazow! Congrats, Rhonda, and I'm off to send you an email right now for your mailing address!