Monday, 2 November 2009

Well of loneliness (Radclyffe Hall) 76

I spotted this on the shelves at work and remembered that I had read it earlier in the year, and should thus write about it for the VVV.

I remember picking it out because I had heard that it was a ground breaking book and one which really seemed to embody the ideas behind the Virago Modern Classics series. It certainly was revolutionary; with its lesbian themes it was immediately banned in Britain and only available in the US after a long court battle.

It tells the story of a girl named Stephen born into a family in England at the beginning of the last century. Just this existence of a girl with a boy's name suggests that there is something abnormal going on. Stephen's father desperately wanted a son, hence the name. As Stephen grows up, she finds that she wants to be a boy, and in adulthood pursues a series of lesbian relationships. It is not a happy existence and we learn a lot about the problems of being homosexuality 100 years ago.

The good thing about resurrecting this book from my memory is that having consulted my list, I see that she wrote three further VMCs: The unlit lamp, Adam's breed and A Saturday life which I am definitely now on the look out for.

Four VMC covers - I borrowed the most recent one from the library.


  1. I have this on my Women Unbound list (the second from bottom, without the green band). It has mixed reviews but one of my friends has been telling me for years that it is one of the most beautiful books she has ever read.

    The bottom cover is very similar to the Ayn Rand Penguin ones.

  2. I've always shied away from this an might give it a go now...