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The Odd Women (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 9 Oct 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (9 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199538301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538300
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 2.3 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gregory S. Buzwell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Feb 2011
Format: Paperback
The Odd Women is a brilliant exploration of the choices faced by young women in late Victorian Britain. While marriage to a wealthy man certainly remained one possibility not all women had the opportunity, and many did not have the desire, to pursue such an objective. There were fewer men in the country than there were women and so, as was often pointed out, even if all the women in the land had the looks of Helen of Troy and the ability to fascinate of Cleopatra, there would still have been a large number consigned to a life of spinsterhood. Given such a mathematically-unarguable situation was it not sensible for women to be educated for careers so they could support themselves? Besides, with attitudes changing and with the rise of the more independent New Woman, not every lady in the country saw a life as some sort of decorative arm-adornment for a man as being a worthy aim for her talents. The smell of freedom was in the air, and crinolines and bustles were, metaphorically at least, being burnt.

Gissing examines these alternative options - the pursuit of marriage on one hand and the pursuit of education with a view to being self-supporting on the other - along with the more typical roles women occupied such as those of governess or dress-maker, but he never casts his own opinions into the ring. Just when you think he is about to take a stance in the debate he will skillfully present, via the experiences of one of the women in his novel, the alternative side of the arguement.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 May 2010
Format: Paperback
The novel opens in 1872, with Dr Madden and his six daughters living together in a form of domestic harmony which has not prepared the daughters for independent life outside their childhood home.

Alas, this harmony is quickly destroyed. When the need arises for the sisters to earn an income, they face a number of challenges. It is hard for them to reconcile their middle-class respectability and their lack of employment related training with their need to earn income. Marriage is unlikely to be an option for at least two of the sisters because of their relative disadvantage in a society with an oversupply of females relative to males. As the sisters are grappling with this new and harsh reality, an acquaintance of theirs - Rhoda Nunn and her friend Mary Barfoot are assisting women to train for employment. The contrast between the hindrances of the old and the possibilities of the new world for women could not be greater. Are the Madden sisters able to rise to the challenge, and adapt? Is it possible for women to be both married and independent?

I enjoyed this novel for three main reasons. Firstly, the novel explores a number of important class and gender issues in late Victorian culture. Secondly, none of the characters is without flaw. While it is possible to prefer one set of choices over another, no choice is without some cost. Finally, the writing itself guides rather than chides the reader through a story that represents the beginning of an enormous social change - for both men and women.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bacchus TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Mar 2012
Format: Paperback
Serendipity is a wonderful thing. I was at my local library looking for George Gissing's novel about journalism, New Grub Street, and could not find a copy. This book by the same writer was on the shelf. I looked at its content and thought, why not have a go?

Being honest, I would not say that I expected much but having now read the book, I am very glad that I did.

The book is an exploration of the lot of women in late Victorian England, before the Welfare State and the emancipation of women. Most higher education was blocked to women and career advancement was virtually impossible. Furthermore, there was a fundamental demographic problem in that there were half a million more women than men in Britain,which meant that a large number of women would be unable to marry. This would lead to poverty for these 'odd' women.

The novel is about three sisters who move to London, two of whom had been working as a governess and a lady's companion for a pittance and fully expect never to marry. Their younger sister, Monica Madden, who is still pretty and more marriagable, is working a slave like existence in a drapers shop. In order to rescue her from this existence, they meet up with an old friend, Rhoda Nunn, who with Mary Barfoot,runs a college in Great Portland Street London to help middle class women to become useful and teach them office and administration skills so that they can make a living without marrying. I don't think it occurs to any character (except possibly the idealistic and uncompromising Rhoda Nunn) that there might be a matter of choice in all this - but is was a long time ago.
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