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The Odd Women

George Gissing

Book Overview: 

George Gissing's 1893 novel takes on the 19th century "Woman Question" by looking at themes of feminism, marriage, and love. The novel raises these issues through the lives of several contrasting women: Mary Barfoot, a feminist philanthropist who helps train women for careers; her close friend Rhoda Nunn, who believes marriage is a disastrous choice for women; and Monica Madden, who starts out as one of their protegees but chooses to marry a seemingly kind older man. As Monica experiences the challenges of married life, Rhoda finds herself drawn to Mary's cousin, the charming but apparently profligate Everard.

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Book Excerpt: 
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'I can't stay—I can't—good-night!'

It was impossible for him to detain her. Ungracefully he caught at his hat, made the salute, and moved away with rapid, uneven strides. In less than half an hour he was back again at this spot. He walked past the shop many times without pausing; his eyes devoured the front of the building, and noted those windows in which there was a glimmer of light. He saw girls enter by the private door, but Monica did not again show herself. Some time after midnight, when the house had long been dark and perfectly quiet, the uneasy man took a last look, and then sought a cab to convey him home.

The letter of which he had spoken reached Monica's hands next morning. It was a very respectful invitation to accompany the writer on a drive in Surrey. Widdowson proposed to meet her at Herne Hill railway station, where his vehicle would be waiting. 'In passing, I shall be able to point out to you the house . . . Read More

Community Reviews

Introduction

--The Odd Women

Selected Bibliography

This is an astonishing book: a subversive, feminist take on marriage and women’s roles in society, written by a man in the 1890s. I suspect that’s not a coincidence, that a woman couldn’t have gotten away with this book and its criticism of Victorian marriage and Victorian men. And to round out t...more

`there are half a million more women than men in this unhappy country of ours . . . So many odd women - no making a pair with them.'
The Odd Women explores the idea of all the “Odd Women” of Victorian England, those women left over after all the more marriageable people have been paired off. Some...more

In his day, in the late Victorian age, Gissing was one of the most popular novelists. But he is not well known today, his contemporaries Trollope, Hardy, and James having aged much better than Gissing has. Indeed, neither the Oxford Anthology of English Literature - Victorian Prose and Poetry nor...more

A definite winner in my eyes. There are some books that just make you think and this is one of them. Taking the idea of 'odd women' and turning it into a novel is just brillant.

Odd women are those women who are left after all other eligible men and women have been paired in marriage. These women...more

What do you do, if the only socially acceptable career is marriage - and no one marries you? In late nineteenth century England, millions of women were condemned to live a life of shabby-genteel desperation because there simply weren't enough men to have for husbands and virtually no actual emplo...more

Possibly my favourite Gissing so far. A brilliant, engaging novel with fascinating and feminist themes, one of the most interesting Victorian books I've read.

I sort of fell out of the world for about a month, didn't I? I am back and trying to get caught up on some reviews. It's been a busy time and also summer and summer makes me feel like the saddest pile of shit you've ever met, so bear with me. It happens every year, though this year may be the wor...more

A riveting novel exploring the nascent rumblings of female emancipation, with a cast of strong and memorable characters serving up a long and thoughtful series of ruminations on the problems of Victorian marriage and divorce laws, and the basic humbuggering that befell women who liked to think th...more

Writing this review will be a struggle; not because I didn't like the book, but because why I liked it is not so easy to explain without saying more than I usually do about the heart of the matter.

So many odd women--no making a pair with them. The pessimists call them useless, lost, futile lives....more

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