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The Odd Women (Oxford World's Classics)…

The Odd Women (Oxford World's Classics) (original 1893; edition 2008)

by George Gissing, Patricia Ingham (Editor)

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7101513,292 (3.89)70
Title:The Odd Women (Oxford World's Classics)
Authors:George Gissing
Other authors:Patricia Ingham (Editor)
Info:Oxford University Press, USA (2008), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library, Fiction, To read

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The Odd Women by George Gissing (1893)

  1. 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)

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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.
19 vote ChocolateMuse | Jun 3, 2014 |
Worth reading, but I don't think it's as good as New Grub Street. The back cover presents it as being about the "surplus" women Victorian Britain was always going on about, but mostly it's not. Virginia's alcoholism and Alice's horrific work experiences are only mentioned in passing. Mostly it's about what I guess is Gissing's big theme, how society makes real marriage, real unions, impossible. In New Grub Street, it was poverty that got in the way, and here it's society's insistence that a woman has to be a wife that actually makes marriage between equals impossible. The story mostly focuses on Monica's bad marriage, and the attempted union between two free thinkers who don't think so freely as they believe they do. I think that was the point. These two subplots are gone into with a fair amount of detail, and there are times when the level of detail becomes excruciating. ( )
1 vote carolus114 | Jan 4, 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 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Gissingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fox, Marcia R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ingham, PatriciaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Showalter, ElaineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walters, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'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.'
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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)

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