‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.’ Elizabeth Barrett Browning has come down to us as a romantic heroine. But behind the melodrama lies a thoroughly modern figure, whose extraordinary life is a study in self-invention. Born into an age when women could neither vote nor own property once married, Barrett Browning seized control of her private income, overcame long term illness and disability, eloped to revolutionary Italy with Robert Browning – and achieved lasting fame as a poet. Feminist icon, political activist and international literary superstar, she inspired writers as diverse as Emily Dickinson, George Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf. This book holds up a mirror to the woman, her art, and the art of biography itself.
Strangers do it, friends do it, politicians do it and so do chimpanzees: in fact, the handshake is so deeply embedded in our history and culture that it might even be older than humanity itself. So let’s shake on it, and join palaeoanthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi as she embarks on a voyage of discovery through everything from evolutionary biology to the etiquette of modern life.