Millennium Hall by Sarah Scott has been on my Amazon wishlist since the beginning of the year; at the Bodleian where I work, readers occasionally order up Virago Modern Classics from the bookstacks for their work and this was one that passed through my hands. The synopsis looked interesting at the time, so I added it to the list, and finally bought myself a 1p copy the other week. What an intriguing book it turned out to be! My first impression was that the language was incredibly dated - things were "agreeable" - but then I realised that the book itself was written in 1762, and whilst the language was dated, the ideas in it were incredibly forward thinking for its time. Essentially, it is a book suggesting alternatives to marriage for women. Millennium hall as the blurb says "is an elegant mansion, surrounded by fragrant pastures and hedgerows of hyacinths and primroses", and it forms the home for a utopian community or co-operative inhabited by six very different women who have come together to live and utilise each other's support rather than relying on family or men. The book starts by describing the hall, from the point of view of a visitor, and then relates the tales of the women who have come to live there.
Sarah Scott was apparently briefly married and then spent the rest of her life living in Bath with a friend (I wondered to what extent they were friends or whether their relationship went deeper), so the book obviously draws on her own experiences and life values. It is interesting to note that while there is sex in the novel, it is only ever in a negative form, such as rape or merely for procreation which suggests that Scott had had a somewhat negative experience of marriage.
This book is very different from many of the VMCs that I have read, and whilst not a hugely gripping story is one that I would nonetheless rate extremely highly for its interesting ideas and values.
It's just been published once, in an original green edition. There are other 1p copies on Amazon, so go and buy them!