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The Odd Women (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

George Gissing , Patricia Ingham
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 Oct 2008 Oxford World's Classics
'there are half a million more women than men in this unhappy country of ours ...So many odd women - no making a pair with them.' The idea of the superfluity of unmarried women was one the 'New Woman' novels of the 1890s sought to challenge. But in The Odd Women (1893) Gissing satirizes the prevailing literary image of the 'New Woman' and makes the point that unmarried women were generally viewed less as noble and romantic figures than as 'odd' and marginal in relation to the ideal of womanhood itself. Set in grimy, fog-ridden London, these 'odd' women range from the idealistic, financially self-sufficient Mary Barfoot and Rhoda Nunn, who run a school to train young women in office skills for work, to the Madden sisters struggling to subsist in low-paid jobs and experiencing little comfort or pleasure in their lives. Yet it is for the youngest Madden sister's marriage that the novel reserves its most sinister critique. With superb detachment Gissing captures contemporary society's ambivalence towards its own period of transition. The Odd Women is a novel engaged with all the major sexual and social issues of the late-nineteenth century. Judged by contemporary reviewers as equal to Zola and Ibsen, Gissing was seen to have produced an 'intensely modern' work and it is perhaps for this reason that the issues it raises remain the subject of contemporary debate. *Introduction *Textual Note *Bibliography *Chronology *Explanatory Notes *Map ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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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: 19.7 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Men and New Women 6 Feb 2011
By Gregory S. Buzwell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating discovery 23 Mar 2012
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and challenging
This book, written in 1893, must have been pretty revolutionary at the time, in its sympathy with women's desire to be able to earn their own living and be recognised as the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Aletheuon
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly crafted slice of Victorian life
I enjoyed the hell out of this novel. For one thing it is set in my favourite part of the Victorian era, the 1880s, when modernity was really changing things. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. James F. Forrest
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
Bought this for my sister, as she asked for her Christmas present as far as I know she enjoyed it
Published 3 months ago by Elly
4.0 out of 5 stars Hooked staight away.
This moves along at quite a pace, set in a time of changing attitudes to single woman in society, in the era of the suffragettes. I was hooked straight away.
Published 4 months ago by Mrs Jean Newton
4.0 out of 5 stars Outside my comfort zone but great
I've never read any Gissing, but was directed to this by Rachel Cooke's Guardian piece about the third Bridget Jones outing and books featuring independent women for whom marriage... Read more
Published 7 months ago by LH
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous insights
Into life in these time, how women were viewed and saw themselves. Beautiful use of written English, he painted many pictures
Published 9 months ago by Dilysg
4.0 out of 5 stars Odd but Fascinating
Odd but Fascinating This is a little known book by a little known author from the end of the 19th century, but for anyone wanting a first-hand glimpse into the changes affecting... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Nimrod
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read
This was our book club choice and it provoked a very good discussion about women's lives and expectations in earlier and present generations.
Published 10 months ago by Tabitha
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly modern attitudes
This is a really good story and I was also taken aback by the thoughtful and 'modern' attitudes it included. The prose was occasionally slightly ponderous in its Victorian way. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Marylebone member
3.0 out of 5 stars holiday
I bought this book for holiday reading on my kindle
it looked interesting i have read a lot of classic books
and to find something that interests me is difficult
Published 17 months ago by peacock
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