Friday Reads: Romantic Outlaws and Testament of Youth

This month, I’m participating in two lovely nonfiction read-alongs. I’m reading Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon with Juliana from [the] Blank Garden (and the Tales & Co Goodreads Group); and Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain as part of the #cctestament read-along hosted by Jillian from In Her Books.

Both books are wonderfully written and quite lengthy. I’m hoping to get a lot of reading in over the weekend, so that I can be on track to finish them on time.


Keep scrolling for this week’s Book Beginnings and The Friday 56



Book Beginnings is a bookish meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you’re reading, along with your initial thoughts/impressions.


Book Beginnings:

In London, England, on August 30, 1797, a newborn baby fought for her life. Small and weak, she was not expected to survive. Her mother struggled to deliver the afterbirth, but she was so exhausted a doctor was called in to help. He cut away the placenta but had not washed his hands, unwittingly introducing the germs of one of the most dangerous diseases of the era — childbed or puerperal fever. Ten days later, the mother died, and, to the surprise of everyone, the baby lived. For the rest of her life, she would mourn her mother’s loss, dedicating herself to the preservation of her mother’s legacy and blaming herself for her death.

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley, Charlotte Gordon



Charlotte Gordon’s biography is incredibly engrossing, and reads almost like a novel. The chapters alternate between Mary Wollstonecraft’s and Mary Shelley’s experiences, creating a vivid picture of their lives. And they are extraordinary lives indeed. The brilliant and passionate mother and daughter both pushed back against societal norms, forging a feminist and literary legacy.




The Friday 56 is a bookish meme hosted by Freda’s Voice that asks you to: Grab a book, any book, and turn to page 56 and find a sentence that grabs you.

The Friday 56:

There is an unduly optimistic proverb which declares that God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb. My subsequent history was hardly to justify such naive faith in the Deity, but on this first occasion Providence at least let me down gently by giving me a year at college before pitchforking me, a willing victim, into the crudities of Army service.

Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain



Testament of Youth is proving a bit more slow-going for me. Vera Brittain’s prose is stunning, but the  somber subject matter is difficult to handle at the moment on top of everything else happening in the news. I know this book is going to break my heart, and I’m dreading it. That said, I’m very glad to finally read Vera’s story, and I know it’s one that is going to stay with me forever.


Happy weekend! What are you currently reading?





18 thoughts on “Friday Reads: Romantic Outlaws and Testament of Youth

Add yours

  1. My first thought when I saw the two readalongs was that I wish I’d known earlier – they are both on my list to read this year! My second thought was that I can’t squeeze them in right now so perhaps it’s a good thing I didn’t know! I’ll be very interested in how you find both books though, Jessie. I’m really looking forward to both, despite the harrowing subject matter of Testament of Youth.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry it didn’t work out for you to participate in the read-alongs, Sandra, but you have two phenomenal books to look forward to! I think they’re going to end up being two of my favorite reads of the year.

      Liked by 1 person

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