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The Odd Woman (1974)

by Gail Godwin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
216497,992 (3.56)12
"HER BEST BOOK SO FAR....[It is] one of the most literate, intelligent and powerful novels I have ever read." --Eugenia Thornton The Cleveland Plain Dealer Professor Jane Clifford is in her early thirties, smart, and attractive. A popular teacher at a midwestern college, she appears to be going somewhere. But Jane knows better. After a lifetime habit of looking to books for the answers to life's mysteries, she seems to be finding only more questions. Then her beloved grandmother suddenly dies, and Jane returns home for the funeral, where she is faced with the little dramas and fictions of both the past she has lived and the past she has only been told about. In the midst of it all, she is considering breaking off a long-term, long-distance affair, but like the family stories she tries to make sense of, she cannot seem to find a reason to claim a life of her own.... "PROVOCATIVE...The Odd Woman is an ambitious and intricately developed novel....One of the most realistic, intelligent and skillful character studies of a contemporary woman to date....Godwin is an extraordinarily good writer....She is a shrewd observer of human sensibilities and shortcomings--particularly those of women--and she explores them in depth with sensitivity, wit and an uncanny eye for the truth." --Chicago Sun-Times "EXCITING AND AFFIRMATIVE...It is a privilege to watch the unfolding of her impressive talent." --Minneapolis Tribune… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
'Was she 'odd' in the sense that she would never join or pair or duplicate herself?'
By sally tarbox on 24 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
Written in 1974, this covers a couple of weeks in the life of Jane Clifford, an English professor, whose life is in turmoil. Her beloved grandmother has just died, so she is off to stay with her family and attend the funeral. And afterwards snatch a few days away with married lover Gabriel. Over the days we follow Jane's interactions with friends and relatives, her emotional state (fragile to say the least)...And Gabriel, who left me cold; when challenged by Jane over his not making a choice he comments 'I suppose if either of you ever demands it, I will have to. But it would be in some ways like deciding to give up apples for oranges, or the other way round.'

Although this is well-written, it failed to grab me and I was glad to come to the end. ( )
  starbox | Jul 10, 2016 |
Awful ( )
  kayclifton | Mar 8, 2016 |
Jane is a professor, single, introspective and having an affair with a married man. She is also very self-conscious, too analytical, repressed, and obsessive about other people's lives. Unhappy and bewildered about her life's directions, she befriends strong, assertive women perhaps hoping to learn from them.

Her grandmother's death brings her closer to her mother who believes Jane's belief in and wish for "true love" is unrealistic.

An Odd Woman has many thought- provoking themes: women accepting bad marriages or affairs, is true love unattainable? Are smart women more choosy about marriage or unattractive to men? And role reversals as in her strong, dynamic sister married to a VERY weak man. And so many questions: how has her upbringing developed and formed Jane's personality? Has Jane's anger and resentment toward her stepfather prevented her from choosing marriage?, or has her grandmother's story of her sister's scandal stopped her?

Godwin practically insists the reader read Gissing's The Odd Women simultaneously. I also wonder how this would compare to the Barbara Pym's novels (about the lives of single women) I read in the past. If I remember correctly Pym's novels had a strong sense of humor which An Odd Woman doesn't.

An Odd Woman is very rich; questioning the choices and options in women's lives. It deserves another reading. While I enjoyed it I wish it was about 75 pages shorter. The slow pace may be deliberate but I found it irritating. ( )
  Bookish59 | Oct 4, 2014 |
As you can tell, not much happens. Not, I don’t think, quite my kind of book. There were moments when I really connected with it—for instance, when Jane is musing about the surfeit of academics who mock their own subjects. Otherwise, it just didn’t do much for me. It’s one of those books where people never really connect with each other; in fact, Jane never really connects with herself. The way it ends should be satisfying, but her doubts and half-heartedness about it make it not terribly. Jane is thoroughly uncomfortable with herself and with all her relatives. There is no joy in the book. There’s a connection here with George Gissing’s The Odd Women, which Jane is reading during the book, and I guess there’s not really any joy in that, either—but people are more themselves, more comfortable in their own skin or at least more familiar with themselves. The problems that afflict Gissing’s characters are not of their own making. They are trapped by their position in society. Jane just can’t get her act together. ( )
  jholcomb | Jan 25, 2008 |
Showing 4 of 4
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In knowing ourselves to be unique in our personal combination - that is, ultimately limited - we possess also the capacity for becoming conscious of the infinite. But only then!
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To Robert Starer
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"HER BEST BOOK SO FAR....[It is] one of the most literate, intelligent and powerful novels I have ever read." --Eugenia Thornton The Cleveland Plain Dealer Professor Jane Clifford is in her early thirties, smart, and attractive. A popular teacher at a midwestern college, she appears to be going somewhere. But Jane knows better. After a lifetime habit of looking to books for the answers to life's mysteries, she seems to be finding only more questions. Then her beloved grandmother suddenly dies, and Jane returns home for the funeral, where she is faced with the little dramas and fictions of both the past she has lived and the past she has only been told about. In the midst of it all, she is considering breaking off a long-term, long-distance affair, but like the family stories she tries to make sense of, she cannot seem to find a reason to claim a life of her own.... "PROVOCATIVE...The Odd Woman is an ambitious and intricately developed novel....One of the most realistic, intelligent and skillful character studies of a contemporary woman to date....Godwin is an extraordinarily good writer....She is a shrewd observer of human sensibilities and shortcomings--particularly those of women--and she explores them in depth with sensitivity, wit and an uncanny eye for the truth." --Chicago Sun-Times "EXCITING AND AFFIRMATIVE...It is a privilege to watch the unfolding of her impressive talent." --Minneapolis Tribune

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VIRAGO EDITION:
Jane Clifford is in her early thirties, smart, attractive, and seemingly kitted out for life with a job as a popular teacher at a midwestern college, and an affair with a married man. But Jane knows better. And she wants more. She knows what she wants - passion, romance, 'an age of bustles and rustling silk, fine manners and literary soirées' - and what she doesn't want - to hand her life over to a man. And after a lifetime of looking to books for the answers to life's conundrums, she seems to be finding only more questions...
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