A Room of One's Own Paperback
Part of the Penguin Great Ideas series
Throughout history, some books have changed the world.
They have transformed the way we see ourselves - and each other.
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- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 144 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 02/09/2004
- Category: Feminism & feminist theory
- ISBN: 9780141018980
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Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.
Review by bookworm12
This famous publication originated as a series of lectures given by Woolf at two women’s colleges in 1928. She talked about women’s role in literature and their potential for creation vs. their actual ability to produce based on their status and income. She gives the wonderful example of William Shakespeare fictional sister Judith. If a woman came from the same station in life that Shakespeare did, what options would be available for her? Would she have had the freedom to write and act in plays? No, of course she wouldn’t. Women weren’t even allowed to perform back then, much less publish their work. The essay examines whether women were capable of producing, and in fact free to produce work of the quality of William Shakespeare, addressing the limitations that past and present women writers face. When one has no money, one hardly has the time or energy to pursue their passions. Instead they must work each day to feed their families and survive. “…how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in.” It’s easy to take these things for granted in the 21st century. Women may not have perfect equality in the work field, but we can work and we have rights that others were denied for centuries. Many of the female authors who stand out in previous centuries usually had to choose writing over children and sometimes over marriage (like Jane Austen, the Brontes, only one of whom married, etc.) Nowadays we can choose whether we want to marry or have children or a career or travel or all of the above. Because of this, we have so many more female writers than past centuries have held. My favorite thing from the book was her comment about how each novel is built on all the work that preceded it. I think she’s right and that it holds true for both men and women in literature. Societies can’t help but incorporate the strides made by others into the development of current work. “Without those forerunners, Jane Austen and the Brontes and George Eliot could no more have written than Shakespeare could have written without Marlowe without Chaucer, or Chaucer without those forgotten poets who paved the ways and tamed the natural savagery of the tongue.” I really loved the book. It made me think and made me appreciate all that women have had to go through to get us to this point. It also made me want to do all that I can to take advantage of that freedom and perpetuate it for women around the world. “Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer!” “By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourself of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip into the stream."
Review by lecari
I enjoyed this and found it really interesting. It gave me a lot to think about, and also now looking at female writers who have had their work published since then, so much has changed. Things aren't completely equal (and I don't think we'll have another Shakespeare), but they are getting there. It was a bit of a slow start and took a while to get into.
Review by krazy4katz
The substance of this book is a couple of talks that Virginia Woolf gave to women on the topic of women and fiction. Her writing is so eloquent. She constructs a scene, a person, an event with language that is tangible. You can almost taste and touch what she is describing. Although nonfiction, "A Room of One's Own ponders what "women and fiction" means. Is it about fiction that women write? About women who write fiction? Fiction about women? She blends all of these themes into her essay with herself as a fictional narrator in various situations where she ponders women writers, men's view of women, the value of education, financial independence etc. Why only 4 stars? I suppose, as much as I love the writing and find it a rewarding read, it is not an easy one. I had the courage to read this book because it was short. I would have loved to read it in a literature class focussing on women writers. As it is, I just have to stumble along by myself. Highly recommended!
Review by csmartinsp
I bought this book for my husband thinking that I was buying "Jacob's room" (I am really terrible with names), then I went and started to read it before he had time to do it (I should not do it, I know. I keep buying books for other people only to be able to read them, and I am so shameless about it, I do not even let the person read it before me. Shame!). To my big surprise as I went along reading and recognizing all my personal views on feminism and in particular on the rights of women for intellectual equality, which is the subject of this wonderful book, I had to conclude that I must have read this book at a very young age, have definitely completely forgotten reading it and that Woolf's ideas have had such an impact on my own that I made them my own. I must therefore conclude that this has most definitely been one of the most influential books I have ever read and I cannot underestimate the impact reading it has had on me. Virginia Woolf is not only one of the best and most poetic writers of all time, she is most definitely one of the most intelligent, insightful and discerning human beings, as this book proves. This is an absolute must read book mainly because, even if some of the details have become obsolete, the general ideas remain valid today and I am sure will remain valid for a long time to come, most unfortunately. This is also an absolutely must read book because many writers talking on the subject have given feminism a bad reputation. This book is impressive in the fact that all its ideas are not only relevant, but avoid many of the resentment that has given feminism a bad name. I often hear women saying they are not feminist. How can anyone, woman or man, say such a thing? Do they really believe that women should be paid less than a man for the same work, that women should not be allowed to travel freely, to drive cars, to vote, to dress a miniskirt without being raped for it (I am not even going to mention not to be treated as a criminal if she has been raped, as it still happens in some regions of this world). Do they believe that a woman does not have the right to refuse to have sex with a man if she does not wish it even if that man is her husband, to choose her husband, to manage her own money or property, etc, etc, etc. The list is long and only the extremely ignorant ignore that all these are very recent achievements of the feminist movement, some of them not yet achieved in many parts of the World. Unfortunately, even if many achievements of the feminist movement have become such common ideas we have stopped identifying them as feminism, there is one idea where very little progress has been made. This is precisely the reason why this book is still so relevant today, because this is the main subject of this book, as I said before, the right to intellectual equality. Most people, even very educated people and even if many would not admit it even to themselves, still believe that women are not as intelligent and intellectually capable as men. This is not so strange, after all history, past and present, seems to prove it: great men are mostly that, men. Very, very few women rank among the great. The reason for this is not a lack of capability but the circumstances of women's lives and the way they have been denied many of the rights they would need in order to achieve greatness, like for example the right to education or the right to work. Woolf proves this much better than I can, you must read the book. She focus on writing because that is the subject she was asked to talk about, but many of her views are quite general and applicable to any other area of intellectual pursuit such as music, philosophy, the arts, and so on. As long as people believe that women are not as capable as men, they will continue to boycott, whether they are aware of it or not, the chances of women to fulfill their potential. Little girls in school will continue to be under-evaluated, competent professional will continue not to be promoted, deserving women scientists will continue not to be offered a job at university, and so on. Then you wonder why does history seems to prove women are OK but not great. Read the book, Woolf says it better than I can.
Review by flydodofly
I have meant to read this for a while, and now I almost regret not having heard about it much sooner and not having made an effort to read it sooner. This little book is a must-read for every woman, and I hope to think to give it as a gift to as many young women, perhaps it would be an ideal coming-of-age gift, to mark its importance duly. When the book was first published, Virginia Woolf was 46 and she wrote this with a seemingly calm, collected view of a woman who has seen, and understands things. It is such a tragic, wasteful fact, that generations of women were not taken seriously, as a person, as a human being. I am sure that many women have seen the same happen in their homes when they were small, or they still see it all around them. I also hope that new generations of women world-wide will be able to feel and hear their own strong voice within them and that they will find a way to remain independent in whatever they choose to do.