(My Rating 4/5)
My first Virginia Woolf!
A Room Of One’s Own, which was published in 1929, is an extended essay by Woolf that reflects on the reasons behind the world’s dearth of published female poets and novelists.
Right at the start, she gives us her opinion that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”
She then goes on to explain the train of thought that led to this opinion. In the process she reveals her own in depth research into the matter, puts forth unique perspectives and imagines scenarios different from the ones we simply accept ed without questioning.
For example, at one point, while talking about how women are represented in literature she observes:
“But almost without exception they are shown in relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that;”
And a little later she imagines:
“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer!”
As one begins to read her work, the feminist in Woolf quickly becomes apparent. But it is a feminism that is built around curiosity, a desire to understand, unwavering confidence, and making a solid point with grace and elegance.
It is a far cry from what I call ‘latter day feminism’, which, in my (most probably insignificant) opinion, is sometimes crude and rabid, and in being so, ironically devalues the ideal in the process! Though technically not a part of the definition of feminism, I find it hard to imagine the concept being complete without it also embodying what it truly means to be feminine – the whole expanse of what it means to be feminine. But in Woolf’s writing I find strains of my ideal of feminism.
On reading this book (which I’m pretty sure I’m going to re-read at some point) I find that I really like Virginia Woolf, and want to read more of what she wrote.
Is Virginia Woolf one of your favourite authors? Which of her books do you recommend I read next?