Barren Ground
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Barren Ground

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  164 ratings  ·  19 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)
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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.
Laura
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...more
Rita
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...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.
Amy
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.
Jackie
"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...more
Ruth
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Dominic
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
Lindsey
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....more
Lara
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
Elaine
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
Anna
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.
☯Bettie☯
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Veronica
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.
Shannon
Very long and very detailed. Great imagery and symbolism with the land, but I didn't really like Dorinda.
Kate
Great protagonist... a headstrong woman who seeks revenge for being jilted.
Mandy
A little too long and repetitive, but enjoyed it on the whole.
Kendal
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155811
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
More about Ellen Glasgow...
In This Our Life The Sheltered Life Vein of Iron Virginia The Romantic Comedians

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“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
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