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Fifty Days of Solitude
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Fifty Days of Solitude

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  167 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
A New York Times Notable Book

Faced with a rare opportunity to experiment with solitude, Doris Grumbach decided to live in her coastal Maine home without speaking to anyone for fifty days. The result is a beautiful meditation about what it means to write, to be alone, and to come to terms with mortality.
Hardcover, 114 pages
Published November 30th 1995 by Beacon Press (first published 1994)
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I discovered Doris Grumbach through a GR friend's review, and finding "Chamber Music" to be a 5 star read ( picked out this slim volume on one of those topics that ceaselessly fascinates me.

I have a little grumble with this book in that my definition of "solitude" would be more absolute. She received a prodigious amount of mail and had ample opportunity to have human contact with people in a community she was well acquainted with, though she does largely
Laura Lee
When I read a book like this I feel, essentially, envious. I don't understand how someone gets to publish a book like this. It is an edited journal of the author's thoughts about the books she is reading and her inner states during a period living alone. My journal is full of this type of observation, and I generally consider the musings to be material, not finished product. That is not to say that her reflections are entirely uninteresting.

If I were to suggest to my agent that I publish a clea
Erika Nerdypants
I used this book during my morning meditations and very much enjoyed the thoughtful reflections on solitude, that elusive thing, that we so often long for and then squander when we are gifted with it. Grumbach reflects that solitude takes on a deeper meaning as we age, and I certainly can agree with that. The older I get, the more willing I am to trade in the restless energy of youth for the quiet, if at times a bit lonely hours. Much like the author, I find that solitude elicits a craving for m ...more
Jun 08, 2011 Pippin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
she didn't have much to say. it was basically notes from her solitude very little of which was worth reading.
Nov 10, 2016 Cheri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Odd Experiment

The author sets out to entertain solitude for 50 days and records her observations. For the most part I enjoyed the book, but here, as I've found in similar books, the focus settles more on the difficulties with solitude rather than the joys, so at times I found it tedious to get through and slightly depressing.
A beautiful and thin volume, nice in the hand. I wasn't expecting anything earth shattering but at least interesting and engaging. I didn't get much of either. Bummer.
Alison Peters
Jan 02, 2017 Alison Peters rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Perfect read on a winter day - will keep on shelf to reread.
Sondra Wolferman
"I was now alone with music, books, an unpopulated cove, and with the frightening reflexive pronoun, myself," explains the author about her experiment in solitude. What she fails to mention is that she also had television, radio, music, and a computer, all of which she employed on a regular basis during her solitary sojourn in an empty home in coastal Maine. This might be the Twenty-first Century version of 'solitude', but it is not my definition of solitude. Watching TV, listening to music, and ...more
Nov 27, 2013 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Head-clearing and peaceful ruminations that introverts will savor. Can simulate a few hours of solitude at least. Lots of gems like, " somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure...without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures" and "There are individuals who feel their senses separate them from the real, from being. That sense in them infects their other senses...W ...more
Paula Dembeck
Aug 27, 2015 Paula Dembeck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grumbach has a multifaceted career as a novelist, book reviewer, essayist and bookstore owner. It is a busy life which leaves her very little opportunity to be alone. However, when she is seventy-five years of age, a rare opportunity presents itself. Her partner is planning a long book buying trip and Grumbach will have a fifty day period of time to be alone, relax, and think. She decides to spend that time in her coastal Maine home. During that time she will not speak to anyone, but will truly ...more
Sep 04, 2015 TJ rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A friend gave it to me, perhaps thinking it may help me with my writing. I generally love to read about writers, and further, the premise reminded me somewhat of Thoreau and Walden. But I was disappointed. I confess to having found some insight, but for the most part I didn't care much for the book itself. Written in vignette style, too often I found myself reading about yet another person with whom the author had been aquatinted dying or loosely correlated images of what she was thinking during ...more
May 24, 2016 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fifty Days of Solitude is a meditation, a devotional; it is the reflections of a woman who is alone for the better part of two months. Her partner is on an extended business trip; a storm has felled her tv antenna, so she hooks up her answering machine and eschews the company of others, except for occasional necessary visits to town, for the better part of two months. Since this is Maine, in the deep winter, even those errands don’t give her cause for much human interaction. She lives alone, goi ...more
Ռոզա Վարդանյան
էն որ մինչև առավոտ 6-ը չես քնում,որ գիրքն ավարտես...6 ժամում եմ կարդացել ու չեմ կարողացել մի րոպե կտրվել:
Կարդալուց նեռվայնանում էի,ուզում էի կիսատ թողնել,հետո էլի ձեռքս էի վերցնում...
Մի խոսքով կարդալու գիրք,կյանքի շարունակական լինելու փաստի գիրք,հերոսուհու քայլերի վրա ջղայնանալու ու հետո էտ քայլերը սիրելու գիրք...
Մի խոսքով բարի ընթերցում:))

Նայիր այս արևածագին: Սա աշխարհի ութերորդ հրաշալիքն է: Հանուն սրա պետք է ապրել: Ամեն առավոտ վայելել սա, վայելել երաժշտությունը, ազատությունը: Երջանիկ կյանքի հա
Sigrun Hodne
I kind of liked it, or I wanted to like it ... ?

This book is actually not structured well enough - not edited properly - to deserve a high rating. It has, I think, lots of unrealized potential.

"Fifty Days of Solitude" is not so much a story about solitude, as it is notebook about all kinds of things distracting Grumbach in her search for solitude. It could have been great, but is only reasonably ok.
Apr 19, 2010 Sue rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, I can't remember much of anything. All I remember is her mentioning some Edward Hopper paintings. She pretty much rambles around just as her days ramble around. She talks of the weather, books, music, but there's no earth-shattering realizations, or even any personal insights. I just couldn't waste anymore time reading something that
really has nothing to offer.
John Orman
Described as "a book to grow old with, even before one is old," this book tells of the author's 50 days of being alone in a Maine home. She describes what it is like to be alone, to write, and come to terms with one's mortality.

After all that, she describes a reunion of the inventive spirit with an enlivened world.

Mar 02, 2013 chrisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read... I don't think it is really a book per se, more like private, edited, journal entries or blog entries all presented together. I found some of her musings thought provoking but overall it felt like she was self-consciously trying to sound intelligent and profound. She has a couple of moments of real insight, but most of the time I found her a bit pretentious.
Barbara Richardson
My first Grumbach non-fiction. I enjoyed the quotes she included from authors she read throughout her retreat. The book has no dramatic arc, but the snippets of time spent solo and quiet really did give my days a reflective feel. And having read the first half of the book, an essay came barging out of me one night, in bed! That's a tribute to good writing.
Mar 13, 2009 Gloria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quiet book (ironic, no?) that sneaks up you. Although, admittedly, I struggled with feelings of complete and utter envy. Who wouldn't want 50 days of solitude-- never to be punctuated by television, radio, phone, etc??
I am now looking forward to my weekend away this fall with that much more anticipation. I can't get 50 days-- I'll take the 50 hours though. :)
Madonna Analla
Jul 10, 2014 Madonna Analla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book because it covers a lot of the nuances of solitude that a lot of people don't expect when they think about the experience of solitude. Such as, being startled by the sound of your voice after you have been silent for a couple hours. I've also found that being unemployed, I've related to many of the experiences in this book.
Christy Woolum
Sep 03, 2012 Christy Woolum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grumbach's book was a perfect read when I was sitting in the woods camping yesterday. I think all of us miss out on so much in the world because of the distractions of noise, talking, electronic devices, and bad news. I don't think I can do fifty days of solitude, but as I continue writing, I am going to try for a few.
Feb 05, 2011 Marianna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ms. Grumbach spends fifty days living mostly in solitude-no phone, TV, paper or visitors as an experiment. This slim volume is a collection of thoughts and experiences she had during time. A very real look at one persons attempt to live a solitary life.
Aug 28, 2010 Mariah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was a dissapointment. Perhaps it was the age of the author, and thus the things she contemplated and the number of people dying around her, but I could not relate to this author's experience of 50 days of solitude.
Joel Boh
The ultimate indulgence as a writer is to write like you would in your journal and have it published - as is. This is that sort of book. If you're something of an introvert where objects and places take on much meaning in your mind, then this book is for you.

I liked it myself.
Jan 12, 2015 Cynthia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a little too random and jumbled for an enjoyable read. It appears the author pulled snippets from her personal journal, collecting them without much thought to order. Many of the entries are simply book reviews without enough commentary to become universally helpful. Pass on this one.
Dec 14, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting _Walden_ but in more modern times, in Maine, and with a woman.

Sometimes we must be outside our lives for a time in order to know how to reconnect to our lives.
Sep 06, 2008 John rated it it was ok
A non-fiction "novella", very long essay, which lacked focus for me in spite of the author's good writing skills.
Aug 23, 2010 KathyJ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
50 days for pensive reflection, an isolated cabin in the Maine wilderness ... it may not be for everybody, but I envy Grumbach her time there, and enjoyed her memoir.
Apr 17, 2013 Felicia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book about the challenge of truly being alone. Recommend anyone who is a creative person to read it and then contemplate some completely solitary time!
Herman Plasmans
Jul 30, 2014 Herman Plasmans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is this solitude or loneliness
I think solitude
Quitte interesting are the meetings with other people
I give 4 stars, because in this genre I prefer May Sarton
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Doris Grumbach is an American novelist, biographer, literary critic, and essayist. She taught at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, and was literary editor of the The New Republic for several years. Since 1985, she has had a bookstore, Wayward Books, in Sargentville, Maine, that she operates with her partner, Sybil Pike.
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“The reason that extended solitude seemed so hard to endure was not that we missed others but that we began to wonder if we ourselves were present, because for so long our existence depended upon assurances from them.” 0 likes
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