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  • Publication date: Sunday November 13, 2011
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster, UK
  • ISBN (Hardback): 978-0743209182
  • ISBN (Paperback): 9780743403993

Fanny Kemble - The Reluctant Celebrity

by Rebecca Jenkins

The Reluctant Celebrity is a portrait of Fanny Kemble, one of the first international celebrities.

In autumn 1829, Charles Kemble, the actor-manager of Covent Garden Theatre in London’s West End faced bankruptcy. With a couple of week’s training, his nineteen year old daughter, Fanny, stepped on stage as Shakespeare’s Juliet and overnight became one of the most written-about women of her day. Performing together, Fanny and her father, Charles Kemble, were two of the world’s first “reality” celebrities, their family roles fascinating their audiences as much as those they played on stage.While on tour in America in 1832, Fanny Kemble escaped the stage to marry a Philadelphian gentleman for love. But ayoung wife in a strange land, she discovered that her new husband’s family money came from slave worked rice plantations in Georgia. Faced with the reality of slavery, Fanny Kemble’s code of Romantic sincerity was put to the ultimate test as she found herself forced to choose between romantic love and her sense of human justice.

"Jenkins... uses excerpts from Fanny’s letters and journals to bring the actress gloriously alive." - Marianne Brace,  Independent on Sunday

"a book that is as lively, engaging and opinionated as its subject... written with poise and a generous dose of wit." - Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times

"A Reluctant Celebrity poignantly catches its subject’s complex desire, typical of many strong Victorian women, to conform and rebel, and to be cosseted and free." - Janet Todd,  TLS

"An... exceptionally readable biography... this book is about far more than just Fanny Kemble. It also provides a good measure of social history covering the first part of the 19th century. - British Theatre Guide

Jenkins... has dug deep among the correspondence and journals of the Kemble circle... and has pieced together a likeness that gets underneath the greasepaint... to deliver up a fascinating character. - Brian Morton,  Sunday Herald

"Rebecca Jenkins biography gives an unforgettable picture of what life was like for a working actress in the mid-nineteenth century." - Ruth Leon,  Theatre critic & Judge of 2005 Theatre Book Prize

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