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The Well of Loneliness [Paperback]

Radclyffe Hall
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 3 2008 VMC (Book 634)
A powerful novel of love between women, The Well of Loneliness brought about the most famous legal trial for obscenity in the history of British law. Banned on publication in 1928, it then went on to become a classic bestseller. Stephen Gordon (named by a father desperate for a son) is not like other girls: she hunts, she fences, she reads books, wears trousers and longs to cut her hair. As she grows up, the locals begin to draw away from her, aware of some indefinable thing that sets her apart. And when Stephen Gordon reaches maturity, she falls passionately in love-with another woman.

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Product Description

From Booklist

Hall (1880-1943) was legendary in her own time--or infamous, some might say--for her fifth novel, The Well of Loneliness (1928). The book was banned for obscenity because its main character is a lesbian, and it subsequently became a notorious best-seller, thrusting Hall into a literary rogues' gallery of fame. Cline uses previously unexplored material to create a biography of the now largely forgotten author that portrays the dense interrelationship of her writings, her childhood, and her friends and loves. Hall called herself by three names: Marguerite, the name with which she had been christened and which she hated, given as it was by the mother she despised; John, her chosen name, which she used among her associates; and Radclyffe, her pen name. The three often enigmatic selves these names indicated formed her public and private personae. The roots giving rise to her international lesbian best-seller are traceable to her early adolescent loves as well as her affairs with married sculptor Una Troubridge and many others--matters that Cline presents in a lively and readable style. Whitney Scott --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

'The archetypal lesbian novel, the one whose title, at least, is familiar to everyone' TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

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First Sentence
NOT VERY FAR FROM Upton-on-Severn - between it, in fact, and the Malvern Hills - stands the country seat of the Gordons of Bramley; well timbered, well cottaged, well fenced and well watered, having, in this latter respect, a stream that forks in exactly t Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and heart-rending May 8 2001
Format:Paperback
This book is to be recommended not only to the lesbian or "invert," but to all sensitive souls who have felt themselves "outcast from life's feast," to borrow from Joyce. The prose itself is rich and beautiful as few books are today, and if this style is long winded as one reviwer has dubbed it, then modern literary culture needs to open its doors to let in some fresh air, regardless of the season. This style of this book, oddly, resembles more than anything that of the contemporary "straight" Bildungsroman by Thomas Wolfe-Look Homeward, Angel. But Hall is more effective at bringing home "the pain of all beauty" and I found myself laying the book down several times to wipe the salty blur from my eyes, such is its poignancy. The storyline and character, oddly again, of Hall's book and of her protagonist Stephen Gordon remind me of nothing so much as Rousseau in his Confessions. Yet, these similarities should not be surprising after all. All three were sensitive geniuses who suffered much through their own spiritual tenderness.-This book is for all who have felt, like Hall and Stephen, "...like a soul that wakes up to find itself wandering, unwanted, between the spheres."-Or as Shelley would have it in his fragment "To The Moon," "Art thou pale for weariness of climbing heaven and gazing on Earth, wandering companionless?"-It will ease your struggle and perhaps bring you rest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and heart-rending May 8 2001
Format:Paperback
This novel in to be recommnded not only to lesbians and "inverts." It is to be recommended to all sensitive souls and lovers of beauty and artists and all who feel themselves terribly rejected by mainstream culture. The prose in itself is beautifully written in a manner that few books of any sort are today. If this lovely style is "long-winded," as one reviewer dubbed it, then today's literary culture would do well to open the door and let some air in, regardless of the season! The book that comes closest, oddly, to the style of Hall's masterpiece is the contemporary "straight" Bildungsroman of Thomas Wolfe-Look Homeward, Angel. Hall is more effective, though, in bringing home "the pain of all beauty," and I found myself having to put the bok down several times to clear the salty blur from my eyes, such is its poignancy. Oddly again, the storyline of Hall's book and the plight of Stephen Gordon remind me of nothing so much as Rousseau in his Confessions.-Then again, none of this should really be surprising. All three were sensitiive geniuses who suffered through much of their lives. This book will strike a chord of love in you, if you, like Hall and her protagonist, have ever felt "...like a soul that wakes up to find itself wandering, unwanted, between the spheres."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, if melodramatic Jan. 14 2001
By Sarah
Format:Paperback
"The Well of Loneliness" may use dated prose, may seem unlike our day and age, and may suffer from being all but overwrought with its message, but at its core it is a beautiful, insightful novel. The central theme - alienation - has the capacity to appeal to, and attract, nearly anybody. One need not be a lesbian (as I am not) to understand the message the story conveys.
If the book has a single, major failing, it is that Hall dwells on reminding the reader as often as possible that Stephen, the protagonist, is "different"; indeed, the word "queer" turns up more times than some of the sensitive sorts may find tolerable. There is also more than sufficient melodrama, which will surely be a turn-off for some--the focus of the novel, rather than the execution, is its true strength.
Nevertheless, the sincerity behind every delivery, no matter how drawn-out, makes this book a worthy addition to any collection. Hall lived this woe--survived the bitterness, anxieties, and, of course, loneliness--that, above all, is what makes this novel outstanding, and a personal favorite of mine.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Malvern's Greatest Invert Dec 3 2000
Format:Paperback
Radclyffe Hall (1883-1943) spent much of her time in Paris in pursuit of her lover, Evguenia Souline, and in many ways it is very difficult to separate Hall's writing from her own life. She had to make a constant effort to endure misunderstanding, intolerance and ostracism -- all because of her sexuality. "The Well of Loneliness" is a classic tale of lesbian love, but 1928 was to prove an unfortunate year for Hall to issue this powerful "crie de coeur." Like D. H. Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover" a few years later, Hall's novel was banned as obscene after a lengthy and infamous trial. Despite this, "The Well of Loneliness" commands our attention as we watch the lesbian protagonist Stephen Gordon -- a nonconformist, deviant, or to use Hall's own phrase, an "invert" -- stagger so beautifully and chaotically close to the edge of life. In Hall's story, Sir Philip and Lady Gordon crave a son and heir to Morton Hall. Strangely, when their only child is a girl, they name her Stephen. But Stephen's upbringing is a little unorthodox -- she learns to ride, fence and hunt, all so-called masculine pursuits, and before long she recognizes that she is being treated as an outsider by the people of Great Malvern. She stays away from society parties, resists all attempts at heterosexual courtship and, gradually, begins to fell the pain of isolation, venturing to understand herself in quasi-biblical terms as "one of those whom God marked on the forehead...like Cain." Like a raven circling the heart, the social pressures become too much for Stephen. She sets sail for Paris. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good queer literature
Well it's a story of Stephan who is named such because her father wanted a boy. It's a story of her coming to terms with her sexuality and eventually falling in love but will her... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Kate
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Moving
I have just finished reading "The Well Of Loneliness" and have mixed emotions about it.First of all, even though some of its melodramatic prose is definitely outdated, however some... Read more
Published on May 24 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Dated Classic - worth a read
As a male, hetrosexual, I decided that I should read this classic. I found it slow, but was interested in the way the author portrayed society. Read more
Published on May 2 2004 by David C Polk
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just for lesbians!
I first read this book when I was 12 years old, (during WWII). I was fortunate that my father allowed me to read anything I desired. Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2001 by G. Green
5.0 out of 5 stars A book of great controversy
~I'm not quite sure whether to love of despise this book. It's so wrong in it's truthfulness and yet seems so dellusional. Read more
Published on July 26 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Literarey Joy
Regardless of one's orientation, this work should be read - if for no other reason, to ensure oneself that we all are, most beautifully, outside the mold, whether it's in our... Read more
Published on April 23 2001 by Melanie K Budzienski
5.0 out of 5 stars sisters are doin' it for themselves.
more than merely an amazing piece of literature, _the well of loneliness_ is one of the most significant pieces of history of the twentieth century. Read more
Published on March 8 2001 by Yiannis Psaroudis
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books!
I loved the way this book was written. It is haunting, bittersweet, sad and beautiful. The only thing I did not agree with was Stephen's forced choice at the end of the book. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars It's 1928, you feel queer and you're a woman
With only heterosexuality as a guide, and lacking the modest freedom that male homosexuals were able to enjoy (usually as long as they did their duty by marrying), what is a woman... Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2001 by Lesbian Reader
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