Gay Radclyffe Hall The Well of Loneliness

ISBN 13: 9780385416092

The Well of Loneliness

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9780385416092: The Well of Loneliness

First published in 1928, this timeless portrayal of lesbian love is now a classic. The thinly disguised story of Hall's own life, it was banned outright upon publication and almost ruined her literary career.

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About the Author:

Radclyffe Hall, the pen name of Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall, was born in Bournemouth on August 12, 1880. She was educated at King's College, London, and later undertook further studies in Germany. Hall was renowned for her open homosexuality, a subject dealt with in her best-known novel, The Well of Loneliness (1928), a semi-autobiographical work and the only one of her eight novels to deal with overt lesbian themes. Her open treatment of lesbianism in The Well of Loneliness occasioned a trial for obscenity; it was banned and an appeal refused, which resulted in all copies in Britain being destroyed. The United States allowed its publication after a long court battle. She also published several volumes of verse including Twixt Earth and Stars: Poems (1906) and Songs of Three Counties and Other Poems (1913). Adam's Breed (1926), a sensitive novel about the life of a restaurant keeper, won the Prix Femina and the 1927 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. Hall died in 1943 at the age of sixty-eight from cancer.

Review:

The Well of Loneliness is a path-breaking novel. Published by Radclyffe Hall herself in 1928, it was immediately banned in Britain due to its lesbian theme and was allowed in the United States only after a long court battle. Once it was available, The Well of Loneliness sold more than 20,000 copies its first year and paved the way for other works with lesbian themes. The novel concerns a girl born into a wealthy English family at the turn of the century and named Stephen by her father who desperately wanted a boy. Practically from birth, Stephen is described as "different," yet while Radclyffe Hall delivers the powerful message that lesbianism is natural, she also asks the reader to have pity on Stephen Gordon, for, along with the popular psychoanalysts of her day, Radclyffe Hall describes lesbianism as an "inversion." The "terrible mark of Cain" compels Stephen to forsake the woman she loves to protect her from a life of ostracism. This message, along with Radclyffe Hall's portrayal of lesbians in stereotypical "butch" and "femme" roles, caused the book to be written off by feminists in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In addition, many readers today may find the language long-winded and the characters one-dimensional, with the exception of the thinly-veiled portrait of the author as Stephen Gordon. Nonetheless, The Well of Loneliness is worth reading because it shattered the silence of oppression and conveys a message about homophobia and internalized shame relevant to lesbians even today. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Heather Downey

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