A review of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own
A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. First published on 24 October 1929, the essay was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women’s colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928. While this extended essay in fact employs a fictional narrator and narrative to explore women both as writers of and characters in fiction, the manuscript for the delivery of the series of lectures, titled “Women and Fiction”, and hence the essay, are considered non-fiction. The essay is generally seen as a feminist text, and is noted in its argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by patriarchy.
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I’ve mentioned before that I’m more likely to reread a book that I didn’t get on too well with than one I loved and that is precisely what inspired this second attempt at reading A Room of One’s Own.
So I first attempted this one two years ago and had this to say about it:
23 April 2014
I didn’t finish this book. I read the sample (first 13 pages out of 111) via the Kindle App and I don’t think it’s bad, but I’m going to have to put it down. It’s just not for me. The poetic language and apparent pointlessness bored me; I never really got on well with this kind of writing style – similar to Heart of Darkness, but less intensity and purpose, more aimlessness. But that’s completely down to tastes. It’s short enough that I probably could continue it… but I can’t really be bothered. And I’m sure it’ll come to a point, but I just can’t right now. Maybe some other time I’ll pick it up again and give it another go. If I do I’ll reassess.
This was a kind version of what I felt about it. I wanted to be fair when really my initial reaction was that it was written in such a flowery style that got in the way of any points making or getting towards making. And this apparent “all set-up leading to nowhere” style felt like a waste of my time and it frustrated me. I didn’t care for it.
Now, two years later, I did re-read it (via the Kobo app) and I have reassessed. I went in prepared for flowery description and diary-like wonderings. It definitely got better once I pushed through the fluffy, meandering beginning, but it wasn’t as impressive to me as I was hoping even accounting for the time it was written. I mean, I enjoyed Herland* (written 13 years prior to this) for the reasons I was hoping to enjoy this book.
*But I suppose Virginia Woolf would have criticised Herland for being too bitter/gendered..
I liked some parts and disagreed with others (sometimes because her ideas are just outdated now and other times because we just see the world differently perhaps). But, if I’m honest, a lot of the time, I was a little bored. And the boredom has nothing to do with this being a classic either. I love classics and am well accustomed to their humble, less flashy, sometimes “dry”-seeming style. I didn’t hate this by any means…but I was sometimes less than enamoured with her way of getting her points across. The style was the main problem for me. Some people love it though. Read a sample (even a few pages) and you’ll be able to assess if it will be a turn off for you or not.
So, yeah. I guess I’m glad I read it after all…but maybe just for the fact that I can say I have an informed opinion about it. Was it worth my time? Hmm…I’m not totally convinced. And I wouldn’t call it a must-read.. It’s a two stars for me with the occasional three (or even four) star quotes here or there.
genre: non-fiction, feminism
publisher: Penguin Books Limited
date read: 2 November 2016
recommend for: anyone interested in feminist classics, feminist history or Virginia Woolf
pros: a few good points, feminist history
cons: a little outdated, flowery and meandering style, somewhat boring