The Well of Loneliness

The Well of Loneliness

by Radclyffe Hall


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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781840224559
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions, Limited
Publication date: 02/01/2006
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)

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.

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Well of Loneliness 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yes, it was trying to get her under, this world with its mighty self-satisfaction, with its smug rules of conduct, all made to be broken by those who strutted and preened themselves on being what they considered normal. They trod on the necks of those thousands of others who, for God knew what reason, were not made as they were ... And the vilest of them could point a finger of scorn at her, and be loudly applauded." (p. 256)Published in 1928, The Well of Loneliness dealt openly with the subject of homosexuality, at a time when it was far from well-understood, and never discussed, by "polite society." It is a searingly painful account of a young woman's coming of age and her search for love and acceptance. Her parents longed for a son, referred to her in utero as "Stephen," and then in fact baptised her as Stephen. She grew up "not like other girls," and with few friends in her community. Only a couple of people understood the situation: her father, who had read some of the research of the day, and a governess who was herself a lesbian. But they maintained their silence; Stephen's father did not even confide in her mother, and no one explained things to Stephen.Stephen began discovering her own sexuality as she approached adulthood, through relationships with a male friend and a married woman. Later, she became part of a circle of "like" friends, and was in a committed relationship with another woman. Yet her life was not a happy one. Her mannish appearance attracted a lot of attention and gossip, she could never be "out" in public, and her relationships would never be formally recognized in the church or in the courts. She became estranged from her mother, who could not accept Stephen as she was. This is not a happy story, but Radclyffe Hall so expertly draws the reader into Stephen's life, love, and anguish, that this book is difficult to put down. What struck me most profoundly in this novel is both how far we've come, and how far we haven't, in societal views toward gays and lesbians. On the one hand, today most people know someone who is gay, and gays themselves can find community. Some are also comfortable being open about their sexuality. None of this was possible in 1928. On the other hand, Radclyffe Hall vociferously argued that homosexuality was innate, not a choice, a subject some people still debate. And, gay and lesbian relationships are still not properly recognized in many states and countries, and in many religious denominations.Because of its controversial subject matter, The Well of Loneliness was banned in Britain for 20 years after its publication. I read it in honor of Banned Books Week, and I'm glad I did.
misskittystryker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Well of Loneliness" was just one of those books I had to have, because it's iconic. Sad, certainly, in points, but also really takes one back to a time where being a lesbian was really an option only for the privileged.
rainpebble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amongst so many negative reviews, I will stand and say that I loved this book. The lesbianism in it is not written overtly enough so as to be offensive. I found it to be very sensitively written and a very thoughtful read.I cared about the characters that I should have and despised those that were to there to be despised. I am very taken with Hall's writing and looking forward to reading more of her work. I am very glad that I read Radclyffe Hall's bio before reading this book. I think it brought me more in tune with her writing.There is some happiness in the story and a great deal of sadness as well. I am certain that I will be reading this one again. I gave it 4 1/2 stars.
doc_illusion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book that wouldn't end. It's one redeeming virtue is that the last page is beautifully written.
bhowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was 25 and again when I turned fifty. It remains a classic and is achingly sad, a story of heartbreak and loneliness.
ocgreg34 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anna and Sir Phillip Gordon looked happily unpon the upcoming birth of their child, hoping against hope to have a boy, even going so far as to only pick out a boy's name. When the child arrives, Anna is dispirited when she gives birth to a girl. Sir Phillip makes the most of it, but still decides to give her the name they'd already chosen: Stephen. And so enters into the world one of the most astonishing creatures of literary fiction. Young Stephen knows that she's different from the other children, but her father, noticing her difference also, allows her to grow up her own way: riding horses like a young man, sometimes dressing like a young boy. From a young age to her lae thirties, we watch as Stephen discovers herself, longing to love and to fit into a society that will not accept her or others like her. She puts her feelings into words, becoming a successful author and does find love, but that love is put to the test when someone who can offer her beloved acceptance steps into the picture. An astonishing book for its time that was banned upon initial publication, openly discussing what was considered taboo with much candor and respect. The characters of Radclyffe Hall's novel deal with the same societal pressures and beliefs which are still prevalent today: same-sex marriage, societal roles of male and female, wanting to fight for one's country during a time of war even when that country doesn't want you because of who you are. A truly remarkbale novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They hoped without faith for the future, yet we have both now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PMSimm More than 1 year ago
Hall details social pressures, which were socially foregrounded much more in the past than they are today. So today, these things operate more in the background as prejudices. The thing of it is, the social pressure is still there to force conformity. That applies to everyone. The book has three things a modern reader has to get over: archaic theories of sexuality, purple passages, and novel expectations. The theory can be marveled at as a museum piece. The purple passages can be appreciated as period literary stuff. The denouement is anti-climactic; Stephen becomes an anti-hero. Those turns undercut things in a very subtle way. It's important for the book to end that way. Hall never wanted pity; she wanted to be heard.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story was alright but it could've have been much shorter. The most interesting points are few and far in between long monologues by the author on topics that I frankly didn't care about. Yet even though this book is no more uplifting than the title makes it sound, it did have some great points. It's worth a read, in fact it you should read it, just don't expect it to be reminiscent of Idgie and Ruth's story. P.S. If you don't know the meaning of the word queer before reading this book you most certainly will by the time you have finished it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book gets off to a slow start, and I did not think I would enjoy it, but certain parts of young Stephen's life reflect mine, so I kept going just to see what would happen. The book picks up pace in the later chapters and continues to get better. A definite even for teens...
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Well of Loneliness' is a very solid book, but when you look closely, it has two or three themes that it trumpets again and again, almost to the exclusion of all else. I think it would be more successful if Stephen wasn't so typical of the mannish 'dyke' type, and her lovers weren't such obvious 'femmes'-it seems to wallow in stereotyping. It's also heavily reliant on quasi-scientific theories of 'inversion', which are laughable to a modern reader. And her girlfriends, Angela especially, are so unsympathetic! All the same, it's a relief to see how much attitudes to homosexuality have changed, and it's a virtual tour of period detail. I'd say the book falls apart badly at the end (almost sagging under its own weight) but for the rest of the time it's worth a look, even if you disagree with many of its central themes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yes, this is another coming of age type story. However, for the very first time, I read of a young person growing up in a very loving, supportive, if not idyllic environment. Alot of the alienation felt by the girl with neighborhood children will be familiar to the reader. The development of how she views herself and her place in the world progresses very logically and reflects, certainly, what almost every gay/lesbian person has experienced. I enjoyed the main character, Stephen, because she was intelligent, articulate and sensitive.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is for much one of the greatest novels I have ever read. Once you go on reading, it came to happen that you forget that such love exists between those so called 'inverted', but instead the purest feelings and human emotions show up. It is absolutely a smart choice for any open mind person, you will for sure find a great novel of The Well of Loneliness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being a lesbian in a world that would not recognise as 'normal' is not easy. The novel shows us clearly on that. I am doing a thesis on this novel but I have face the main obstacles on trying to find the materials in an Asian country. I do hope that you folks out there would aid me on making my thesis a piece of work that i can exposure them to fellow men and women.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this story was a grueling read. I didn't care about the characters, therefore I didn't care what happened to them. This is only one of two books in my lifetime that I could not finish. I wanted to cry at the end of this book, I wanted to feel sorry for them, but I did not. The back of the book gives a summary and talks about a character named Mary as part of the main storyline. I was more than 3/4 through the book before we got to meet Mary. I have read much better.