Bookish Discussions

The Odd Women | A Remarkably Feminist Victorian Story

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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

Victoria: The Queen

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I started my new year off with an “intimate” look into the woman who ruled an empire: Queen Victoria. Julia Baird has written an excellent, truthful and well-researched book on the monarch who was the figurehead of a progressive era and a huge empire in a time where women were often seen and not heard.

*really* enjoyed this look into Queen Victoria – possibly my favourite historical figure of all-time.

All my knowledge of Victoria stems from the ITV show, reading Victorian novels and self-research. I didn’t have a deep understanding of her.  Victoria: The Queen is said to be “the definitive biography” on Victoria, exploring her lonely children to her happy marriage right through to her death. It’s brief, in a sense, the woman reigned for 63 years, but it focused on all the important stuff:

The Kensington System, her cruel uncles, Melbourne, Albert, her nine children, politics, her growing Empire, the many PMs, and so on.

I understand her so much better now.

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Bookish Discussions

Revisiting the Brontës: Jane Eyre

‘Do you think I am an automaton? A machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think me wrong!’


635F70C3-6EBB-47AB-8D69-892F1DA750EFI made it my goal this year to reread (and annotate) all the Brontë novels. It’s safe to say that won’t be happening. I’ve only managed two so far, leaving me with five. It’s doable, but I don’t want to dedicate the rest of the reading year to it, so I’ll carry it onto next year instead.

One of the challenges for this year’s #Victober was to re-read a Victorian classic, so, naturally, I chose Jane EyreIt’s my favourite book of all time. My comfort book. The one I can return to time and time again, never growing bored, and always taking away something new from it. It’s my third time rereading it. I somehow loved it even more this time round.

As usual, the remaining chapters is what makes the book so special to me. It might seem weird to say, but I feel privileged to have witnessed Jane’s journey through life. Charlotte told the story in a way that allowed me to build a relationship with our protagonist. I felt what she felt; I craved what she craved; and I was desolate when she was desolate. It probably has something to do with the type of character Jane is: she’s ordinary. Just like any other. She isn’t a distant, middle-class character; she is very much present in the real world.

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