Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Barren Ground” as Want to Read:
Barren Ground
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Barren Ground

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  181 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Set in Virginia, this novel evokes the irony of change in the rural South. Dorinda Oakley is a passionate, intelligent, and independent young woman struggling to define herself.
Paperback, 540 pages
Published November 15th 1985 by Mariner Books (first published 1902)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Barren Ground, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Barren Ground

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldWinnie-the-Pooh by A.A. MilneAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueThe Sun Also Rises by Ernest HemingwayThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Best Books of the Decade: 1920's
130th out of 313 books — 580 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank1984 by George OrwellThe Road by Cormac McCarthyBridge to Terabithia by Katherine PatersonNight by Elie Wiesel
Most Depressing Book of all time
276th out of 811 books — 2,453 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 409)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Bree (AnotherLookBook)
A novel about a woman in turn-of-the-century Virginia who, after being jilted by her neighbor, must discover another means of making her life a success. 1925.

Full review (and other recommendations!) at Another look book

A wonderful read by an author who I'd never heard of until I found an entire shelf of her books in a local library. Beautiful writing to complement the kind of story you continue munching on long after you've closed the book. Not very light, but not too heavy either--just interest
Michael Fischer
I have changed my mind on this novel. At first, I thought it was a little too deterministic and overwrought...then I realized it's brilliant how Glasgow critiques a chauvinistic economic system. The common arguments about the problematic loss or sacrifice of Dorinda's sexuality (or sexual desire) seem to miss the mark and Glasgow's ironic intent. Also, while some argue that "Barren Ground" is on board with Allen Tate and the Agrarians, I'm not sure I see the relationship existing so smoothly: Gl ...more
Joe Johnston
Read this for a southern lit course in grad school. Uninspiring & tedious, with the discouraging theme of "life can be a drag--man up and tough it out." Feh.
If you are looking for a Thomas Hardy-like read head straight to Ellen Glasgow..the detail, the characters, the story (ironic and sad like Hardy), it's all there and set in Virginia USA. I decided to read this book as the author was named a top favorite by Jonathan Yardley as he left the Washington Post after writing 3000 book reviews over 30 years. I didn't always agree with his reviews but this reccomendation was no disappointment.

Here's his final column if you want to know more:
What a magnificent novel by Ellen Glasgow.

This is the story of Dorinda Oakley's life in a Virginian farmland during the period of 1890 to 1920.

After a love disillusion case, she decides to move to a big city, and only by chance, she goes to New York City. The course of her life changes since then as a neurosurgeon and his wife show new directions that can take her own destination during her way back home.

Even with some mild traces of racism throughout her narrative, the author manages to captiva
Another good, tho' depressing, book by Glasgow about living in extreme isolation in rural Virginia in the early 1900s. I try to imagine my grandpa growing up there, tho' he was in a more fertile, more populated part of the state.

Ambition in a woman is one of the themes of the book.

Tho' probably Glasgow had extremely progressive views for her time, her generalizations sprinkled throughout the book about "the negro" are a reminder of the nearly totally segregated lives of the white and black commu
One of Glagow's greatest novels, the story of Dorinda Oakley, impoverished farm girl who is "ruined" by an unplanned pregnancy to her betrothed who ends up leaving her for another woman days before the wedding. Glasgow turns the story upside down by having Dorinda travel to New York where she reaches rock bottom and loses her pregnancy when hit by a carriage only to have it turned around when the doctor who helps care for her gives her work as a nanny and helps her to become educated in dairy fa ...more
Elizabeth Sulzby
A hard, bleak read but very memorable. As an Alabamian and oft-times Virginian, I love all of Glasgow's books that I've read. I thought I had read them all but have come to realize that I haven't even read half of them. Glasgow is taught, I am told, in Womens Studies classes which is a real way to kill an author but hasn't done that to Flannery O'Connor or Eudora Welty. Maybe we'll have a "groundswell" for Glasgow from the literary cultures; I support that.
Written in 1925, reading it because I have to read popular American books from the twenties. The prose is purplish but the plot is unsentimental: a better, more brutal Gone With the Wind.
K. A. O'Neil
One of my favourite books ever.
"The transparent flakes...diffused in their steady flight an impresion of evanescence (vanquish like vapor) and unreality" (10).

"...insubstantial as a pattern of frost on the grass" (10).
"It was as if the secret spirit of the land had traced an image of the flat surface, glimmering, remote, unapproachable (10-11).

"I wonder if everything has a soul?" (11).

"The passing trains had been part of that unexpected miracle, the something different in the future, to which she looked ahead over the tedious
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barren Ground is a more troublesome novel to the 21st century reader than I first thought. While Dorinda Oakley is certainly a complex, extremely human and even triumphant version of the early 20th century female public self, her private self is undernourished, mangled and stagnant. While Dorinda breaks gender norms and is able to thrive without the help of men, she is forever plagued by one defining incident from her past and is never able to heal. She is unable to accept the impermanence in he ...more
An ambitious (if overwrought) philosophical novel that asks the big question, How should we live our lives? We watch Dorinda Oakley embrace love and hope, then fall into existential despair, and then embrace a stoic and unforgiving life of hardship, only to have a big realization in the final three pages.

I imagine a lot of people would find this book intolerable: the constant philosophizing, the melodramatic voice, the repetition of themes, the heavy use of metaphor! But I thought it was lovely.
Ugh. After 80 pages of character descriptions I don't feel like going forward. I mean, seriously: how long can you describe one girl walking down a road and how she wants a boyfriend, basically, with absolutely no plot and no connection between the reader and the character? Glasgow tells us all about how Dorinda looks, but we don't really know anything about her beyond that. And descriptions of her hair, skin, mouth, etc. abound as do descriptions of her family. Ironically, despite these plentif ...more
I really enjoyed this book, though it was a bit long with themes correspondingly becoming sometimes repetitive. I am puzzled as to what the book says about Glasgow's views of women. The protagonist, Dorinda Oakley has one failed love affair and then decides never to allow herself to love a man again and I wonder if Glasgow is saying that success and independence demands for a woman the choice between being loved by a man and maintaining one's own autonomy. I know that Glasgow never married so wo ...more
Four because it was so descriptive and so LITERARY but only a four because at time it was dry and even though I understand the appeal of knowing the main character so deeply, I got tired of her emptiness and the pages-long descriptions of her emotional emptiness. NOT A HAPPY BOOK.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I never truly finished this book. I just didn't like to writing style. It was a bit slow and had too much detail about the land and being pulled back to it.
Very long and very detailed. Great imagery and symbolism with the land, but I didn't really like Dorinda.
Great protagonist... a headstrong woman who seeks revenge for being jilted.
A little too long and repetitive, but enjoyed it on the whole.
Gregory marked it as to-read
May 17, 2015
Isabel marked it as to-read
May 15, 2015
Xhensila Meta
Xhensila Meta marked it as to-read
May 14, 2015
Hannah Salt
Hannah Salt marked it as to-read
May 11, 2015
Mark Ridgeway
Mark Ridgeway is currently reading it
May 04, 2015
Dorcas marked it as to-read
May 01, 2015
Rachel Thomas
Rachel Thomas marked it as to-read
Apr 25, 2015
Monica marked it as to-read
Apr 24, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 13 14 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Losing Battles
  • Mary Olivier, a Life
  • Devoted Ladies
  • The Corner That Held Them
  • The Pastor's Wife
  • The Weather in the Streets
  • The Semi-Attached Couple and the Semi-Detached House
  • One Fine Day
  • The Rector's Daughter
  • Roman Fever and Other Stories
  • No Signposts in the Sea
  • The Land of Green Ginger
  • World Enough and Time
  • A Lost Lady
  • The Land of Spices
  • The Daisy Chain, Or, Aspirations: A Family Chronicle
  • The Rise of David Levinsky
aka Ellen Anderson Gholson Glasgow

Born into an upper-class Virginian family, Glasgow rebelled at an early age against traditional expectations of women, becoming a best-selling author of 20 novels, the last of which (In This Our Life) won a Pulitzer Prize in 1942.

The majority of her novels have Southern settings, reflecting her awareness of the enormous social and economic changes occuring in t
More about Ellen Glasgow...
In This Our Life The Sheltered Life Vein of Iron Virginia The Shadowy Third

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Her life, she knew, was becoming simplified into an unbreakable chain of habits, a series of orderly actions at regular hours. Vaguely, she thought of herself as a happy woman; yet she was aware that this monotony of contentment had no relation to what she had called happiness in her youth. It was better perhaps; it was certainly as good; but it measured all the difference between youth and maturity.” 2 likes
More quotes…