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The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
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The Well of Loneliness (original 1928; edition 2006)

by Radclyffe Hall

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2,035394,736 (3.45)1 / 204
Member:KASM
Title:The Well of Loneliness
Authors:Radclyffe Hall
Info:Wordsworth (2006), Paperback, 448 pages
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The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (1928)

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English (33)  French (2)  Finnish (2)  Italian (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Incredibile. E' passato molto tempo, da quando il libro è stato scritto; molte cose sono diverse ma altrettante, temo, non sono cambiate affatto. L'uso del termine "Invertita", riferito alla protagonista (innamorata di una donna) mi ha fatto scorrere un brivido lungo la schiena ogni volta in cui l'ho visto scritto. Per il resto, un libro che forse dovrebbe far parte dei programmi scolastici. Provarci, almeno. ( )
  Eva_Filoramo | May 3, 2018 |
If all you did was judge [The Well of Loneliness] on literary merit, you would have to throw it out the window well before you reached the end as the writing is histrionic, a mass of clichés and stereotyping, annoyingly repetitive, and utterly predictable. But don't do that for this is the sort of novel that proves that novels aren't always about good writing; sometimes what lies at the heart of a novel--what drove the writer to write it--matters far more than the story itself, which is window dressing to carry the message, in this case a message so compelling as to shift the book into a different realm. WoL was published in 1928 and promptly banned, as it is the story of a male soul born in a female body. The first openly lesbian novel, it is clear that Hall's purpose was to write above all a romance that might draw in any reader of any orientation, and having drawn them in, start changing their perceptions. As annoying as the book often was (the gender stereotyping made me cringe and howl) yet just often enough Hall would drop all the foolishness briefly and I would be moved by Stephen Gordon's predicament, her confusion, her attempts to be true to herself but also to be sensitive and respectful of the people around her, and her gradual disillusionment and despair. I am sure Hall's novel has made a difference. It's significant, historical, and, in its own odd way, a very genuine creation. **** ( )
1 vote sibyx | Nov 28, 2017 |
One of those seminal (no pun intended) novels which gets harder to read when the original shock value has long worn off. I'm sure Radclyffe Hall's open and emotional account of 'inverts', or lesbians, in Edwardian England and post-war Paris was controversial enough to warrant the furore raised at the time of publication - an obscenity trial which lead to the book being banned in the UK - but now Loneliness is just a weakly written historical account of prejudice and persecution - interesting, important but lacking in inspiration.

Don't get me wrong, for the first half of the book, all I could think was 'Yes! I'm going to change my name to Stephen, this woman is telling my story!' - which I suppose is a good thing, 90 years on - but then the purple prose kicked in. Now, I have read every last one of Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel novels, which was like Enid Blyton writing for Mills and Boon, but at least her characters were interesting. Stephen - yes, of course giving the female protagonist a male name instantly turns her into a pseudo-man - suffers for her 'unnatural' love, but she is so dreadfully upper class, I couldn't bring myself to care. I was more concerned about her horse. And Mary is a drip. I did like the acid-tongued Brockett, though.

I'm sorry, I know I should revere this novel far more than I do, and I'm sure reading this drivel gave a lot of confused and closeted women the strength to be themselves, but the writing is so stodgy. There's a lot going on - gay love affairs, World War One, 'Gay Paree' - but there is also much heavy prose, caricatures and general racism, which I don't normally complain about in nineteenth/early twentieth century texts, but there are a couple of cringe-inducing examples.

'For sooner the world came to realise that fine brains very frequently went with inversion, the sooner it would have to withdraw its ban, and the sooner would cease this persecution.' ( )
2 vote AdonisGuilfoyle | Aug 30, 2017 |
With the expiration in the EU of its copyright, this initially suppressed novel is now, somewhat ironically, in the public domain in Europe. Almost 88 years to the day after it was banned, I finished this off as an audio book. It left me with mixed feelings.

This is a brave attempt to sensitively portray a human side of lesbianism given contemporary attitudes to homosexuality. In its attempt, Hall gets full marks for effort. But, for me at least, I felt it was a bit over the top. I tried hard to discern whether this was a factor of the era that I’m living in or not. I don’t think it was.

Stephen Gordon, so named despite being an unexpected daughter, is raised pretty much like any little boy would be. Now, if I met a woman called Bruce, I’d at least wonder why her parents named her that. But no. Strangely, not a single person in the entire novel seem to find it strange that she, a girl/woman, has a man’s name. “But the author had a man’s name,” I hear you chime. Actually, the author’s first given name was in fact Marguerite.

Anyway. I digress. Small plot issues aside, the novel follows the life of Stephen as she grows into a woman who is male in all but physiognomy. At this point, you’d have thought that the whole nature/nurture thing would come into play a bit. But no, it’s nature all the way. Maybe, from an gay perspective, it’s only ever about nature. I don’t know; when I’m with people who are gay, I spend about as much time discussing their sexuality as I do when I’m with people who are straight.

And along with the emphasis on the natural side of things comes several passages that are very much heartfelt cries for society to accept this state of being. Not only that. There are also many episodes where Hall uses Stephen’s struggle to illustrate a deeply conflicted sense of self. There were even pleas to God Himself for acceptance, none more emphatic than the very last line. While I acknowledge the sentiment, this is where I felt the writing was a bit over the top in its desire to appeal to the reader.

What did I get out of it? Well, as a Christian whose world view is definitely not compatible with the mainstream, I appreciated it first as a stimulus to reconsider my own beliefs and thereby reaffirm them. In addition, I valued it as a historical document of the gay community and one with valuable insights into the issues that they may still face. Thus, it very definitely deserves its place in the history of world literature and its relevance has only grown with time. ( )
  arukiyomi | Dec 17, 2016 |
‘God,’ she gasped, we believe; we have told You we believe . . . We have not denied You, then rise up and defend us. Acknowledge us, oh God, before the whole world. Give us also the right to our existence!’

First things first, the cover on this edition is absurdly unrepresentative of the book.

Second, I liked the book. I would even recommend the book - it's just that it should come with a few notes:

1. It is endlessly long. And detailed. For no purpose. Whatsoever. If the length of the book was sustained by beautifully formed expressions it might not feel so long but....

2. I should not have read this so soon after reading the works of some master wordsmiths. Halls famous work is not as clunky as and slightly less preachy than The Unlit Lamp but it just isn't one of the books that would have been remembered for its evocative or imaginative writing.

3. The book was written with a purpose - a plea, if you like, that is expressed very openly in the closing chapters. As an example of cultural history or changes in society and attitudes, it is a fantastic read because it contains a lot of information about (and more detailed description of) British upper-middle class society of the early 20th century. So, if you read the book with a purpose of finding out more about these attitudes, this is a great read.

4. The character of Stephen seems to be based - at least to some extent - on Radclyffe Hall herself. As a result, the perspective taken by the main character and the book as a whole is limited to the experience of only one individual - which I guess is the point, but it doesn't make for a complex reading experience. In short, there does not seem to be an attempt to investigate other points of view, or experiment with angles of perception, or layers. There are other characters but few of them are given a real voice.

5. I could not help but smirk at the hint of hypocrisy in the books attempt to strive for acceptance of a minority when at the same time there is underlying attitude of snobbishness and chauvinism towards other minorities.

And yet, for all I criticise, there is an also an honesty to the story and Radclyffe Hall's forthright writing style that impresses me and this is worth the hard work of reading it:

The Well of Loneliness was published at the same time as Woolf's Orlando - touching on similar themes of identity - but where Orlando shrouded the issue in mysticism, Radclyffe Hall dared to write openly about sexual identity.

The book was banned under the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. The ban was not lifted until 1959 when the Act was amended. Originally, the test for obscenity was "whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall". In 1959 the Act was amended to differentiate controversial works of art and literature with social merit.

The Well of Loneliness was not only book with a lesbian theme to be published in Britain in 1928, but it was the only one banned - because of its forthrightness and its explicitness - though hardly what would pass as such in today's terms.
Arguably, it is the book's fate, the notoriety it gained by being banned, that helped The Well of Loneliness to remain in print today.

"You will see unfaithfulness, lies and deceit among those whom the world views with approbation. You will find that many have grown hard of heart, have grown greedy, selfish, cruel and lustful; and then you will turn to me and will say: “You and I are more worthy of respect than these people. Why does the world persecute us, Stephen?” And I shall answer: “Because in this world there is only toleration for the so-called normal.” And when you come to me for protection, I shall say: “I cannot protect you, Mary, the world has deprived me of my right to protect; I am utterly helpless, I can only love you”.’

This review was first posted on BookLikes: http://brokentune.booklikes.com/post/1045117/the-well-of-loneliness ( )
2 vote BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Radclyffe Hallprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ellis, HavelockCommentarysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gluckstein, HannahCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hennegan, AlisonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Im, Ok-hŭiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Journel, Vera deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lack, LéoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lami, AnnieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, HugoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ōkubo, YasuoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pattynama, PamelaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petit de Murat, UlysesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quintella, AryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Renner, LouisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schumann, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vendyš, VladimírTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yan, YunTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zody, BepForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Not very far from Upton-on-Severn - between it, in fact, and the Malvern Hills - stands the country seat of the Gordons of Bramley; well-timbered, well-cottaged, well-fenced and well-watered, having, in this latter respect, a stream that forks in exactly the right position to feed two large lakes in the grounds.
There is an illuminating and entertaining monograph to be written on the sub-literature which has grown up around The Well of Loneliness. (Introduction)
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Book description
Living in the baronial splendour of Morton Hall, at the foot of the Malvern Hills, Sir Philip and Lady Gordon long to complete their happiness with a son and heir. But their only child is born a girl -- and they baptise her Stephen. As she grows up -- tall, broad-shouldered, handsome -- it becomes apparent that Stephen is not like other girls. She learns to ride, fence and hunt, she wears breeches and longs to crop her hair. Instinctively the people of Great Malvern draw away from her, aware of something -- some indefinable thing -- that sets her apart. From a difficult, lonely childhood, through a tormented adolescence, Stephen Gordon reaches maturity and falls passionately in love -- with another woman.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385416091, Paperback)

First published in 1928, this timeless portrayal of lesbian love is now a classic. The thinly disguised story of Hall's own life, it was banned outright upon publication and almost ruined her literary career.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:31 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Originally published in 1928, Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness is the timeless story of a lesbian couple's struggle to be accepted by "polite" society. Shockingly candid for its time, this novel was the very first to condemn homophobic society for its unfair treatment of gays and lesbians.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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