Reading “The Odd Women” by George Gissing and finding it an easy but depressing read. One thing it forces one to reflect on is how things today are different but also how they are the same (but nobody will admit the sameness publicly anymore, which makes despair more isolating). I am highlighting one of the Amazon reviews:
In this way, Gissing continues to unveil how dependent these women’s worlds still were on men. Even if they didn’t want to be…even if they didn’t have the choice to be, an idealic philosophy alone could not change these women’s most secret desires and nature. It’s a disturbing realization to behold.
But Gissing isn’t degrading women. His insight is penetrating…especially for a man of his times…but he balances out his story well. He shows in a good way how a professor’s long-awaited marriage helps him to become a much more fulfilled, well-rounded man. And, though pathetic, Monica’s husband is clearly lonely & lost without a woman by his side. Gissing shows the men in this tale to be completely as in need of women (and desirous of companionship with them) as the women are of men.
In this way, Gissing’s revelations lead one to somber despair. One realizes that the feminist uprising comes not out of a desire to truly work but out of an economic need and dignity of women for whom things did not work out. The story is not one of an pioneering spirit but rather of resignation to how things don’t always work out and how people slip through the cracks.
Thus, while the historical and sociological insight Gissing provides is invaluable, his story has much to say in our times as well…and he says in such a way that I don’t think most would have the courage to now.
I read this book a couple of years ago and yikes — ! It resonated. I, too, am frustrated that no one admits how very little the attitudes towards “spinsters” have changed in the past 100 years. The failure to acknowledge this is, as you say, further isolating. When people who don’t know anything about it briskly assure me, “oh, it can’t be that bad,” or “it’s not that way anymore,” it serves only to negate my very real life experience and further diminishes me.