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A Room of One’s Own…..

My February’s selection for The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge was, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. I know I have mentioned this previously, but here is one author who actually intimidates me and as a result, I have not read one of the foremost, literary geniuses of 20th century! Back in 2016, I finally mustered up the courage to read To The Lighthouse which blew me away and I vowed to read more of Ms. Woolf’s works but it took me two more years to finally get to her writing again and this time as I went with one her most sought after non-fiction writings!

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I am not sure how other folks have written a synopsis of this amazing work, which says so much and yet cannot be captured in a 4 line summary! The essay kicks off as Ms. Woolf explores the subject on which she has been asked to provide a lecture on – Woman in Fiction! She asks what the title in itself means – women and what they like? Women and fiction they write or the fiction that is written about them or how all these three elements are intrinsically linked to each other! From here on, she goes to explore the writings by men on women and why women have not left money for their daughters to help them find a room of their own where they pursue their art? She draws out parallel’s in form of fictive sister of William Shakespeare who despite being equally imaginative and gifted may not have ever had a chance like her brother because of financial and social limitations which would have either driven her to an early death or confined her to the borderlines of society condemned as a mad woman! She then moves on to examine the history of Women writing from Aphra Behn to Jane Austen to Bronte Sisters to George Sand and her own contemporaries like Rebecca West who are often cast as undesirable beings because of their abilities and intellect! She show how small this history is and yet how one generation of women are indebted to her previous generation for the relative creative freedom, that she has received, because of the efforts of her predecessor! She also visits the fact that men authors often neglect the relationship between two women themselves unless it is in relation to a man! She closes her essay with asking more women to take up writing so that they are able to bequeath a better inheritance on their daughters than the one they received themselves!

To begin with, once again, I am not sure why I waited for ages, literally, to read this work. It would have been great to have appreciated the brilliance of the prose and deep and sometimes disquieting thoughts of this book much sooner than 2018! Anyhow, I am glad I finally did read this work and needless to say, have found so much to like about it! I know this has often be slotted under a feminist work, but I cannot help but think this is so much more. This book tells women, what they know but in way forcing them to see it in the glaring sunlight. It brings consciousness and awareness to women about their plight and the kind of legacy we have been handed down to what will hand down. What really stuck me is that while Ms. Woolf was very optimistic about the future of her daughter’s in a 100 years’ time; today, 100 years later, her essay is still relevant as ever. While we really do have more options, things have not changed much  – West was decried as an errant feminist because of her abilities. Today in our much evolved language a woman is called “bossy” if she displays initiative and ambition; while the very same qualities are applauded in man and shows him to be “hungry for success!” Goes to show the more things change, the more they remain the same. But more importantly, something that really spoke to me in contrast with other gender politics writing was its ending – there is no “down with men” war cry, but rather a strong push to women, to pull their lives up so that they can better their and their daughter’s lot!

100 years ago, Ms. Woolf exploded to give us so many things, and I know I will revisit again and again to take up one kernel and explore it end to end before moving on to another idea. One of best thought provoking books I have read in a very long time!

A big shout to Adam for hosting this great event, which finally giving a chance to read authors and books that I should have read long back and without this challenge would not have gotten to even now!

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. mudpuddle #

    i have difficulty dealing with issues like this… i’ve read “Room” and “Lighthouse” and most of W’s other work: The Waves was my favorite, but i really like “Orlando” too… i guess i just tend to wimp out and look at people just as other objects moving around, regardless of sex, at least that’s what i think i do… maybe i’m culpable in not taking a firm stand about the issue, but life is so short and time gets eaten up so easily… so i just keep reading and don’t get involved… mea culpa, i guess… i really think W was a genius in spite of her difficulties, and she produced timeless and meaningful work. so much depends on a reader’s age and experience, as to what exactly a given book says to her/him, that dogmatically identifying a text as belonging to a certain mindset seems sort of an exercise in futility to me… what do you think?

    March 5, 2018
    • I think you make some very pertinent points about dogma and the age and experience! I have always believed that reading is a deeply personal experience and how the book talks to you is very different from how a book speaks to me and this relationship is based on what you said, age and experience. Coming from a country where women even now are treated as no better than slaves with no human rights whatsoever, I feel the good luck in being born in a family where education and empowerment for women was a given. As I became an adult, I realized that especially in our geography my family was in minority and women still struggle for those basic rights which my great grandmother had fought for and whose results I and my cousins have enjoyed. Despite all this support and education which I have received, when I go to work – a international financial conglomerate, which really espouses equality and actively promotes it. at the middle management, I still have to contend against the side lining of women and how they are not good enough for financial whizzing! And this honestly is a first world problem; my sisters here are struggling with education, healthcare and financial independence. In such a scenario, these works speak to me. Maybe the 500 pounds is not important for me to produce some literary masterpiece, but will be very important to my sister, trying to escape a violent abusive marriage in the deep interiors of the country where social service and justice system are still to get a complete grip. I do completely agree with you that blind adherence is just downright ridiculous and without understanding the whole, and relating to things partially and slotting it to a cause, is just plain futile. This turned out to be way longer than I expected…so sorry!!

      March 5, 2018
      • mudpuddle #

        very interesting information… i wonder if it’s just education that causes the vast majority of humanity to apparently be stuck in the dark ages, or whether some other sort of genetic influence is involved… humans have been tribal for millions of years and sometimes i think that pov has been ingrained in the brains of most modern day people… at any rate, education seems to be the only answer to establishing a more equitable division between the sexes; i don’t see it happening any other way, and with the planet under such great stress from overpopulation, the outlook seems rather grim…
        darn, i didn’t mean to be pessimistic, but it’s hard to avoid… anyway, it’s great that you have a position that serves you and provides inspiration for others…

        March 6, 2018
      • I must think about this a little more ….I am not sure if education is the only way but I cannot seem think that it is the basic foundation or maybe I am conditioned to think like this. Going back to my sister in the interiors of the country,she has all the legal rights as I do including right to property and to resort to legal means if she is being abused or violated. But because she has never been to school or even seen the bigger world, she does not know that the country and the legal system are designed for her and her own. So technically she has the 500 pounds but she does not know she has it or what to do with it! I could be barking up the wrong tree, but I do feel education even more than money is key to all equality! You are more of a realist than a pessimist and we need to see things in prespective to do anything about the problems, which I think is the starting point! I agree I am very blessed and I hope to use this blessing to empower those who are not!

        March 6, 2018
      • There is such a dichotomy here and as much as we try to right things in life, we never seem to be able to get balance. There always seems to be a cost in whatever one does, even if one is doing it for the right reasons. I was just watching a Youtube video with Jordan Peterson who addresses the issue of gender equality. He’s a University of Toronto professor who has been targeted because he refuses to be legislated to call transgenders by the new list of pronouns. His argument is solid —- he says historically, whenever identity has been made paramount, chaos has followed: think, Hitler, Stalin and the Rwandan genocide to name a few cases. It really made me think. Not that we shouldn’t strive for fairness, however the manner in which we strive is of paramount importance. We can do much damage, even damage that only appears later, in doing what we perceive to be the “right” thing. Best to step carefully and measure each step. In any case, only my own mullings on Mudpuddle’s as always very astute observations ….

        March 6, 2018
      • I hear you and I agree with you that this whole assertion of one unique identity can lead to bigger disasters. But here are my two cents – even before the Aryan Identity nonsense, pogroms and vicious, violent ones at that were the norm all across Europe. Hitler was just an addition and a bigger one! More importantly, if people chose to not believe in rubbish and instead use logic, such acts never can happen. Case to the point when Nazi forces took over Denmark, they began their anti-jewish propoganda. But the Danish King with all his subjects took a stand that everyone in Denmark is Danish, regardless of Gender, religion and race. In fact he appeared to greet the Nazi High Command wearing the star of David arm band to show his solidarity as the King of all Danes, including Jews. As a result, Nazi forces had to roll back their anti -jew propaganda and Denmark remained one country under Nazi occupation to be free of Jewish death! Closer home, India has more than 300+ languages and sub cultures and races. The British for 200 years ezploited the difference to rule the nation. However the clarion call under Indian leaders who emphasised on the need for us to be Indians before being a Punjabi or Bengali or Tamilian galvanized us into one nation and out of it arose the one Free India movement, that resulted in our indepenedce from the British yokel! I guess long and short of my argument is, that I understand that there is a very delicate balance in creating an identity and it can be used for much good as it can be used for much harm. However, in the fight for equality. and I mean all kinds of equality like economic, legal and gender based. unless we actually acknowledge that a certain group is unique in its needs, how can we redress the issues. A blanket approach may just be a waste of resources! I agree caution is key , but that does not mean, we should not see the problem in its unique paradigm! Phew! Ok…I think I will stop here!

        March 6, 2018
  2. Great review, Cirtnecce! It makes me want to read this, and I, too, have been intimidated by even beginning to read Virginia Woolf. I do dislike an anti-men message, so it’s good to hear this is different in that respect.

    March 5, 2018
    • Thank You! I have no idea why I always wait so much before I read a Woolf considering both her works have hit gold. This one is strongly recommended exactly because it talks of empowering ourselves instead of belittling the other gender!

      March 5, 2018
  3. Oh good grief, another event which I missed. In any case, your review was stellar and because of it, at least I can be there late in spirit! 😉 Woolf is a writer that I want to dislike but simply cannot as her prose is so thoughtful and thought-provoking. She’s like a light from who knows where that continues to shine.

    March 6, 2018
    • Funny how you said that…even I would basically dislike Woolf…I do not know why! Maybe her life or something in me just shies away from holding her up there; but there is for sure such clarity and brilliance in her prose that I cannot help but marvel over it! Thank You for being there in spirit…I know February was a challenging month for you, so don’t worry…we will have more Read Alongs. I am reading The March of Folly this month if you are interested and have the time!

      March 6, 2018
  4. This is my favorite Woolf. Personally encouraging for women today, especially those whose battles and obstacles come from within.

    March 6, 2018
    • I so agree with you Ruth…..this book after 100 years remains very relevant and in some cases, more than ever!

      March 6, 2018
  5. Yay! I love Woolf so much! I am glad you were finally able to read this one. I know she can be intimidating, but if you just jump in with her it usually turns out just fine. 🙂

    March 16, 2018
    • I know what you mean Stefanie! The more I read the more I like her; just makes me wonder, why the hell do I take so long to jump!

      March 17, 2018

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