Bookish Discussions

The Odd Women | A Remarkably Feminist Victorian Story


I think I love George Gissing.

I mean, I’ve only read two of his books, but he is magnificent.

One of my favourite Victorian authors of all-time. No doubt.

So, The Odd Women. Opposing the “New Woman” fiction of the era, Gissing satirises the image and portrays unmarried women as “odd” for not wanting to marry. Set in grimy London, these odd women range from the idealistic, financially self-sufficient Mary Barfoot to the Madden sisters, who struggle to subsist in low paying jobs and little chance for joy. Is marriage the be-all and end-all for Victorian women?

It is a powerful story of women fighting against their so-called “duty”: marriage.

Gissing wrote such emotive passages on the plight of marriage, especially seen through Monica Madden, who sadly gives into this ideal and lives a very unhappy life. Gissing suggests that marriage isn’t always the best option for women in the Victorian period. Yes, it might have secured them financially and advanced their social position, but it poses a threat to their health and happiness.

It was Monica’s story that was the most distressing to read. Viewed as the prettiest of six sisters, Monica’s duty is to marry. Growing up, however, she finds the Odd Women movement enticing. A life of liberty – with freedom to move as and when she pleases, to work for a living, to make her own choices? Heaven.

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Bookish Discussions · Reviews

William Morris’ News From Nowhere:



‘How strange to think that there have been men like ourselves, and living in this beautiful and happy country, who I suppose had feelings and affections like ourselves, who could yet do such dreadful things’

Rating: 3 stars

Read: 16 October – 19 October, 2018


News From Nowhere was my first introduction to William Morris, and it certainly won’t be my last. It’s a lovely utopian story exploring a humane socialist future. Exhausted from a Socialist League meeting, William Guest returns home to sleep. He doesn’t wake to his ordinary 19th century life, though. Instead, he finds himself in a Communist society two decades later. England has been transformed into a socialist society after the revolutionary upheaval of 1952. The story follows his journey across London and up the Thames whilst he learns all about this way of living.

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this. I thought the opening of the story utterly brilliant. I was intrigued by how this sort of society worked and, more importantly, how a nineteenth century writer envisioned it. We all know how the Victorian period worked: it was built upon oppression, mistreatment and greed. I thought Morris’ detachment from this society extremely thought-provoking. He dreamt of a society without class, labour, gender politics, and so on. It was a society built upon compassion and fairness. It’s what you want the world to look like.

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