sometimes witty book reviews
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
A very educated friend of mine recently described to me her experience of reading this book: ‘I’ve studied gender and women’s literature but never,’ she said ‘had I read A Room of One’s Own. I thought that it was published to wrong ago to be relevant today. But I’ve just read it, and suddenly everything just makes more sense.’ This was exactly what I felt when I recently read this short but very important text. Woolf’s calm, reflective and insightful prose resonates across the decades and proves itself to be still very much relevant today.
When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
Written from a fictional narrator’s viewpoint, A Room of One’s Own was created from the material of three lectures Woolf delivered at Cambridge University on the subject of ‘Woman and Fiction’. In short, the work highlights the need for women to be allowed figurative and literal space in the world of literature. The analogy, once fleshed out by Woolf, was easily rapidly applied to all areas of society. If you’ve not read any Woolf before you might find the prose a little overwhelming to begin with. The key is to read slowly and thoughtfully. There is no rushing the exploration of a genius’ mind at work.
Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe?
If you are a feminist of any description – and even if you think you’re not – please try to get a hold of this book. It could be read in one sitting if you have an afternoon spare and you will be glad you did it. I personally consider it a privilege to be granted access to the one of the twentieth centuries greatest brains for a few precious hours.
Reading suggestion: Find feminists to converse with immediately upon completion.
All quotes from A Room of One’s Own.