Comments below, with all due respect, don't respect historical context. We are barely 30 years out from the trial of Oscar Wilde. This is a gut-wrenching, tormented dramatization of the price of being unrecognizable to oneself because there is no support system (the Human Rights Campaign did not exist!!), the very language of "lesbian" hardly existed (men's homosexuality, e.g. at Oxford and Cambridge, was far more accepted as the norm than women's same-sex attraction, and the struggle for an "invert" to find a COMMUNITY of gays/lesbians was fraught with anxiety (as it still is). Forget the upper-class clothing of this book and read for the churning and struggle = a map for us all, to one degree or another.
Tolerate the sometimes baggy, leftover late-Victorian prose, and heed the crushing weight of being outsided, condemned by the Church as well as the straight world. Whether you are gay or straight, you will be rewarded by the candid map of being "other" that Radclyffe Hall had the courage to generate. The book should motivate all of us to DO BETTER for human rights.
Depressing for a lot of reasons, including the fact that the words "homosexual" and "lesbian" never appear. The heroine is born into wealth -- neither she nor her parents have ever worked a lick -- so her misery is less understandable. She is gallivanting around Europe, buying snazzy autos, going to clubs in 1920s Paris, eating in restaurants, buying a Left Bank house with garden -- and miserable. The author also uses irritating stereotypes for Irish, French, Spanish, German, Negroes in Paris (with no mention of jazz), peasants, inclinations of "normal" women and even animals -- plus her badly rendered Yorkshire accents and constant overcompensating for the "sensitive nerves of the invert." Well, it's 1928. She tried. The section on World War I ambulance drivers is a worthy re-creation.
jeez this is a depressing book! everyone feels so bad about being a lesbian; it's kind of hard to read because of that.
i'd say it has merits based on the fact that it was groundbreaking, and as an historical lesson for modern day lesbians who don't have to be feel quite as shameful as their predecessors did. but it's not a particularly fun novel.
It's a wonderfully written book, sad (and depressing, for some) but so true. I love the use of the language.
At one point all lesbian novels had to end badly in order to show the folly of having this orientation. This is one of those. It was alright up to the end.
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