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Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and eye-opening about its times (1920s), 9 April 2010
This review is from: A Room of One's Own (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I found this an enjoyable read; a bit rambling and idiosyncratic, but not the worse for it, as the writer's personality comes across well, which is one of the things she says in the book is important to her as a writer - that one should be oneself. That in itself is a good message, and, though it is a "feminist" book, I like that fact that she did not resort to male-bashing or treating all women as paragons, and liked her theory that many fine minds, whether male or female are actually quite androgynous and not limited by preconceptions of what a male or female should be like.

Her main premise, that in the past not many women wrote due to prosaic reasons like having no private room to do it in, and her discussions in general about the lives of women in earlier centuries, are thought-provoking (and I discovered where the phrase Shakespeare's Sister comes from).

Her theory that the best writing comes when the person is self-confident and secure and has no particular chips on their shoulder is interesting, though maybe it could be debated - could it not also be said that some great art has come from people who had suffered a lot (Woolf herself, had traumatic periods of depression and a tragic death) and also from people who wanted to prove some point or other? But I see where she is coming from, that there are certain works of great art that are just beautiful and satisfying in themselves with no particular sense that the author is trying to make some point or express their angst with the world.

One thing that mildly irritated me though was her ideal that to write well one should really try to arrange to have a nice independent income so as to not have any financial worries and not have to answer to a boss at work etc, but just be able to dream and ponder and travel and express oneself etc. We can't all be as fortunate as her to have rich aunts who leave us lots of money, and though she points out that women in her day now had possibilities of making money through different kinds of work, it would be a rare one who was able to find something that allowed for the kind of liberty she holds up as the ideal for writing creatively.

In passing, I was interested by some of the insights into the time, such as how from the end of the war she says women had had the chance to go into almost all the professions - and some people these days seem to think the emancipation of women started in about the 60s or something.. also that the word "feminist" was already used (though it seems it was a bit negative - used for people who were thought a bit strident about women's rights), and , how, for example the First World War was then known as The European War.
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