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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

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 th

Starring Rhoda Nunn, Victorian radfem.

Rhoda on the difficulty of young women getting decent jobs:

I know it perfectly well. And I wish it were harder. I wish girls fell down and died of hunger in the streets, instead of creeping to their garrets and hospitals. I should like to see their dead bodies c

”So many odd women—no making a pair with them.”

Before I read this book, I thought of only one meaning of the word “odd”: strange, unusual. The sentence above from Chapter IV brought to focus another meaning. If there are “half a million more women than men” in England and their main purpose is

Love this book!!I have read it with an exasperating slowness, but I was able to enjoy it as I haven't been to do for a long time with the books of these last months. They are those women who, by fate or economic condition, are unable to reach marriage, thus remaining forced to enter the working worl

This is a Victorian novel, written by a realist--George Gissing. It is a forerunner to books of feminism. It depicts the situation of women of slender means. For most women there were few other alternatives than marriage. With no dowry or a small one, then you better be pretty!

We are told that in V

An excellent feminist novel written in the midst of the Victorian age, in 1893. The title refers to unmarried women who were considered "odd" in those times. What I like most about this novel is the humor and wit with which Gissing presents her characters and themes which in another writer's hands c

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 employme

The Odd Women is my first George Gissing and I was happily surprised by this very feminist novel. Named for the unpaired, "marginal" women in Victorian England, Gissing is full of surprises. The novel questions the role of women's work, relationships, marriage and position in society. Plus, it is a

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.

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 thing

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