Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Odd Women by George Gissing

The Odd Women (1893)

by George Gissing

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7831511,764 (3.9)77
  1. 00
    Alas, Poor Lady by Rachel Ferguson (CurrerBell)
  2. 00
    Miss Miles: or, A Tale of Yorkshire Life 60 Years Ago by Mary Taylor (CurrerBell)
    CurrerBell: Miss Miles, published in 1890 and centered on "Brontë country" in Yorkshire in the 1830s, was authored by Mary Taylor, who along with Ellen Nussey was one of Charlotte Brontë's two best friends from boarding-school days. It addresses the "women's issue" with particular emphasis on Taylor's belief that women had a moral obligation to be self-supporting and not to rely on men.… (more)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 77 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
This read was an unexpected masterpiece for me. Absolutely recommended to those who are interested in Women's studies and such, but even aside from that - recommended to anyone - this is not one of those feminist books you will think pretentious. I would venture to call it a humanist book, rather, and with a focus on the female problems which are still relevant today. I still maintain that this was a book ahead of its time, and to us it can show how our current lives, our world - our time came about. Personally, I feel I have become a hundred times richer as a human being by reading it.
P.S. For anyone interested, a Project Gutenberg e-book edition of the work can be obtained online without any charge. This book is now public domain. ( )
  avalinah | Sep 11, 2016 |
I found Gissing's women to be more "stock" characters, in contrast with the deeper and more rounded portrayals in Mary Taylor's Miss Miles. ( )
  CurrerBell | Sep 16, 2015 |
Isabel was soon worked into illness. Brain trouble came on, resulting in melancholia.
  samwilson.id.au | Aug 14, 2014 |
I am 30 and have considered myself ‘on the shelf’ for an immeasurably vast number of years. Though not unsought (so my pride makes me add) nevertheless the trend of my life has bent towards spinsterhood always, for various reasons. I think it’s important for this context to be made plain in my approach to Gissing’s The Odd Women. I am One Of Them, one hundred years on.

I’ve noticed that even in the best literature; in books written by women; in books with strong central women characters; in almost any context at all – love, sex and/or marriage has been the source of satisfaction held out to every fictional woman, whether they get it or not, and whether the getting of it turns out well or not. Take Dinah Morris from Adam Bede for example. She is so strong, so committed to her cause, so different from other women; and she turns away a pleading for marriage from a good man consistently throughout the book. And then, the ending, all of a sudden – deflation. Let me make this clear: I have nothing against love and marriage. I like to read a good romance as much as the next woman. I am happy for people who find love and live happily ever after. If whatever True Love may be ever recognisably comes my way, I will not turn it away on any high-falutin’ principle. But it nevertheless annoys me that fiction cannot allow a woman to stand on her own. The general idea of a ‘strong independent woman’ in this current generation is one who doesn’t get tied down, but nevertheless has a fairly robust sex life, which defeats the purpose in this context. Single women in any generation are either eccentric, faded and sad, or desperate. (The only exception is the rich old women you find in Trollope or Thackeray, who are imperious and intimidating. Also, allow me for a moment to promote Barbara Pym, a notable exception I greatly appreciate).

The problem is, how to portray a woman who stands on her own in a way that is realistic? I cannot deny that love is a central force in life. With all the will in the world, one can’t realistically push it into a back corner and pretend it doesn’t matter. Whether one possesses this Love or not, it still is a forceful presence in a person’s life (men as much as women? Surely?). So we have a fine balance, an interesting dilemma: love matters; yet without it, some might choose to stand alone rather than pursue a false representation of it. Why is this not explored more in fiction? It’s a rich mine of exploration.

Which finally brings me to Gissing’s novel. Published in 1893, by a man, at that! and yet all my ramblings above are the exact issues he deals with in this book. I think he does it with extraordinary sensitivity. I haven’t explored feminist fiction in any depth, but my limited experience of it seems to focus on wider political issues. This book does not do that, even though one would almost certainly call it a feminist novel. He limits its feminist explorations to the quiet inward experience of life in a single woman. There are a range of female characters, all single (at least at first), some weak, some strong, all intelligent. Outwardly, the choices in life for them are few: one turns to drink, another to an unhappy marriage, another to social causes. But the real meat of the novel is how they approach their situation on the inside. The stronger women ask themselves the really hard questions, and they find a way, just like anyone else does, to accept the hard and pursue the good, and make a way in life. They are whole people, no different to a married person! Funny, that.

Gissing overcomes many difficulties men of his era would have fallen into so easily. He does not masculinise strength in a woman. He sensitively depicts a powerful relationship between an independent woman and an independent man in a society where such a thing is rare and strange, thus putting all sorts of strains and boundary-testing in a struggle between the two. Intelligence, strength of will, originality, decisiveness: these qualities in the 19th century were considered wholly masculine – and I admire Gissing for his ability to see beyond the norms of his times. He doesn’t get everything perfect – some moments made me cringe just a little, but I give him all credit – he was dealing with a subject so naturally foreign to him, as a man, and as a resident of 19th century England, and he did it courageously.

The book is, if nothing else, a struggle with perilous concepts bravely undertaken.
21 vote ChocolateMuse | Jun 3, 2014 |
The topic was excellent and deserved five stars - Gissing makes a really strong argument for the need for feminism and every character's story was believable, interesting and revealing. The writing is, however, heavy and forceful and it took me such a long time to finish this. I felt closer to Rhoda's opinions throughout and the book's got some strong quotes but Monica's plight, however important to the story, was handled in a way that could have been shorter and still to the point. I'm so sad the writing prevented me from fully appreciating this novel but I really recommend it for the points it makes and the overview of rather well-off women's options at the end of the 19th century. ( )
  RubyScarlett | Nov 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Gissingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fox, Marcia R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ingham, PatriciaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Showalter, ElaineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walters, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
'So to-morrow, Alice,' said Dr Madden, as he walked with his eldest daughter on the coast -downs by Clevedon, 'I shall take steps for insuring my life for a thousand pounds.'
Ridiculed by men, treated with scornful anxiety by other women, the old maid is a traditional figure of fun. (Introduction)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
"Questions of marriage don't interest me much . . . my work and thoughts are for the women who do not marry - the 'odd women' I call them..."
Set in London in the 1980's, this powerful novel tells the story of five of these 'odd women'. Alice and Virginia Madden are reduced to genteel poverty by the death of their improvident father; their pretty sister Monica chooses a loveless marriage to escape their fate; Rhoda Nunn and her friend Mary Barefoot devote their lives to helping young women find emotional as well as economic independence.

Rhoda is the embodiment of all that was meant by the New Woman - brave, spirited, feminine, seeking not to reject men, but to create for both sexes new ways of living, new freedoms from the old constraints, including, if necessary, marriage.  Into her life comes Mary's engaging and forceful cousin Everard.  Mutually attracted, they are drawn into a passionate struggle for supremacy from which Rhoda emerges with a new understanding of what love between man and woman can mean, and what its implications are for a woman determined also to be true to herself.

'It was for women Gissing reserved his fullest sympathy . . . In the Odd Women, he achieved one of the very few novels in English that can be compared with those of the French naturalists who were his contemporaries' ~Walter Allen
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140433791, Paperback)

Virginia and Alice Madden are odd women', growing old alone in Victorian England with no prospect of finding love. Forced into poverty by the sudden death of their father, they lead lives of quiet desperation in a genteel boarding house in London. Meanwhile, their younger sister Monica, struggles to endure a loveless marriage she agreed to as her only escape from spinsterhood. But when the Maddens meet an old friend, Rhoda Nunn, they are soon made aware of the depth of their oppression. Astonishingly ahead of its time, "The Odd Women" is a pioneering work of early feminism. Gissing's depiction of the daring feminist Rhoda Nunn, it is an unflinching portrayal of one woman's struggle to reconcile her own desires with her deepest principles.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:35 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
19 wanted4 free
9 pay
1 free

Popular covers


Average: (3.9)
2 5
2.5 5
3 23
3.5 7
4 50
4.5 7
5 28

W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 118,014,053 books! | Top bar: Always visible