This week’s review is The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall in celebration of my birthday. One of my favorite ways to rest is by curling up with a good book. Like movies and music, all genres appeal to me, and I give all books a chance to be ‘heard’!
Radclyffe Hall creates pure literary magic in her internationally bestselling novel 'The Well of Loneliness'. #literaryfiction #BrandisBookCorner #bookreviews Click To Tweet
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The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
Radclyffe Hall created pure literary magic with The Well of Loneliness. Because of its nature of the topic – a woman having women lovers – the novel was initially banned the year it was published (1928). Not until some time later was Hall’s work accepted as the literature it was intended and given the recognition it deserved as being the first piece of work to shed light on the love two women can obtain.
The main character, Stephen, is born to an aristocratic couple – Sir Philip and Anna Gordon – who are deeply in love and had been wanting a child for years before finally conceiving later in their marriage. Though she was born a girl, Sir Philip and Anna were adamant they were having a son during Anna’s pregnancy, and thus kept the chosen name of Stephen upon her birth.
Sir Philip owns a great estate, Morton Hall, which Stephen falls in love with as she grows from infancy to adulthood. It becomes a symbol of belonging throughout Stephen’s life and is the one comfort that brings her peace and security- something she continually seeks. Morton Hall is of great importance throughout the novel as it witnesses the life-changing events of Stephen’s life.
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Throughout her life, Stephen is awkward with society, not knowing what to say or how to act. In particular, she is easily embarrassed when with other girls but is oddly comfortable with boys. She develops a few friendships, but all with boys as she can easily relate to them. She is perplexed by this peculiarity in herself and dislikes the constant feeling of not belonging anywhere including in her own skin.
With an aversion to dresses and preferring riding pants, she possesses a natural talent for riding horses and becomes a skilled rider at a rather young age. Joining her father on his hunts with his fellow peers, Stephen and her father develop a strong bond that is common amongst fathers and their sons. But to Sir Philip and his daughter, their bond is natural and loving.
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After developing an affection for the estate’s chambermaid, she realizes the force with which she can love – a deep devotion and intensity of emotions she cannot control. This passion perplexes her and for some unknown reason, she feels it is wrong. But then again, how can love be a bad thing? This perplexity is further deepened when she meets and falls in love with a married woman later several years later.
When Stephen is of school age, Anna hires a governess for Stephen’s education. As with many other areas, Stephen possesses a prevalent ability for learning and excels in all areas, particularly in writing. A fondness grows between teacher and student, and her governess suspects the true nature of Stephen. However, she dares not to say anything lest it confuses or upsets Stephen, and keeps it to herself.
When she is older, she discovers her father knew of her proclivities long before. He was researching it and reading literature regarding the taboo subject in an effort to better understand it. His intention was to talk to Stephen about it when she became older and he could fully explain it to her. Unfortunately, Sir Philip passes before he is able to do so.
During World War I, Stephen is wanting to serve her country, but as a woman is unable to do so in the capacity in which she would like. She settles on being an ambulance driver, transporting injured soldiers from the front line to the hospital through rough terrain with the ever-present danger of being hit from crossfire. It is during this time she meets the great love of her life, Mary.
Mary has nowhere to go after the war is over, so Stephen offers for Mary to live with her. Mary shares the same affection to Stephen as Stephen has for her yet Stephen is unable to fully giver herself to Mary. Even as a bestselling writer of a novel, a skilled fencer and rider, and decorated war hero, Stephen will always be cast in an unfavorable light and out of society because of her ‘unnatural’ love for Mary.
Being a few years younger than Stephen and still naive, Mary does not understand the repercussions of their situation. She does not understand the reality that will come with two women living together in such a way, much less being in love, regardless of how refined, educated and talented she is. Stephen does not want Mary to suffer any consequences of their love, so she must make a choice between the great love of her life and the demands of society.
This is a historical breakthrough in literature. The pages are dripping with beautiful prose, and one cannot help but love Stephen. You ache with her, cry with her, and love her more and more with each turn of the page. The praise for Hall’s work does not do it justice, and will always remain one of my most beloved pieces of literature. It is truly a piece of buried treasure.
I have read this novel several times, and each time is like the first time. The mere sight of the book brings me comfort and upon reading the first words of the first sentence I smile. This smile comes from knowing the author will take me through the greatest moments and equally saddest moments of Stephen’s life but in such an artistic and peaceful reverie. It will make you fall in with this piece of work time and again.
Book Tattoo: The Well of Loneliness
Book of the Month Club
I enjoyed books so much that I joined the Book of the Month Club to continue receiving the latest and greatest books via mail. Some of the books are exclusive to BOTM club members a month prior to their official publishing date! Each month I’m excited about the monthly selections, and it’s tough to select just one. (And when I can’t decide on one, I can add additional books for a small add-on charge and – as always – shipping is included in the monthly membership fee.) Can’t find one you want? That’s okay, too! Skip a month, pocket the credit to spend next month, and you won’t be charged for that current month.
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Book Ratings and Reviews
Each book I review is based on my opinion. This does not mean you will agree with the review or love/like/dislike the book, too. There’s a quote that says, “No two persons ever read the same book” by Edmund Wilson, and it’s quite true!
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