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The Odd Women

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  2,152 ratings  ·  138 reviews
In this novel about the late Victorian era, Gissing embellished the issues faced by the women of that society. The tribulations of maidenhood and the obstacles in maintaining a respectable frontage are highlighted. The attitude of the society and the hollow conformance to its rules has been dwelled upon in the narrative. An engrossing and in-depth estimation.
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Published July 13th 2009 by ReadHowYouWant (first published 1893)
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A definite winner in my eyes. There are some books that just make you think and this is one of them. Taking the idea of 'odd women' and turning it into a novel is just brillant.

Odd women are those women who are left after all other eligible men and women have been paired in marriage. These women are not outcasts per se but definitely live a much different life than those who have a husband.

Some of the women in this novel embrace the distinction while others are so afraid of becoming one that th

--The Odd Women

Selected Bibliography
What do you do, if the only socially acceptable career is marriage - and no one marries you? In late nineteenth century England, millions of women were condemned to live a life of shabby-genteel desperation because there simply weren't enough men to have for husbands and virtually no actual employment was possible. This is the horribly narrow, lonely fate endured by one woman here - but it's far better than the fates of two of her siblings: alcoholism, and marriage to a well-meaning but unendura ...more
In his day, in the late Victorian age, Gissing was one of the most popular novelists. But he is not well known today, his contemporaries Trollope, Hardy, and James having aged much better than Gissing has. Indeed, neither the Oxford Anthology of English Literature - Victorian Prose and Poetry nor the Norton Anthology of English Literature has an entry for his writing, and the Oxford Anthology doesn't even mention him in its "Suggestions for Further Reading." The Teaching Company course on "The E ...more
`there are half a million more women than men in this unhappy country of ours . . . So many odd women - no making a pair with them.'
The Odd Women explores the idea of all the “Odd Women” of Victorian England, those women left over after all the more marriageable people have been paired off. Some of the characters – particularly Rhoda Nunn and Mary Barfoot embrace their status as single independent women and in them Gissing rather satirises the “New Women” of the 1890’s.
As the novel opens in 187
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is an astonishing book: a subversive, feminist take on marriage and women’s roles in society, written by a man in the 1890s. I suspect that’s not a coincidence, that a woman couldn’t have gotten away with this book and its criticism of Victorian marriage and Victorian men. And to round out the praise, it is also an excellent story, with fascinating and believable characters, that had me turning the pages as quickly as any contemporary novel.

Late 19th century England had a marriage market in
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Writing this review will be a struggle; not because I didn't like the book, but because why I liked it is not so easy to explain without saying more than I usually do about the heart of the matter.

So many odd women--no making a pair with them. The pessimists call them useless, lost, futile lives. I, naturally--being one of them myself--take another view. I look upon them as a great reserve. When one woman vanishes in matrimony, the reserve offers a substitute for the world's work.

Ok, so that exp
I think I’m beginning to like Gissing. I read New Grub Street a few months ago and my jury remained slightly out, but The Odd Women won me over.

Thematically, this novel is very interesting indeed. The “odd women” of the title are those surplus to requirements in late-Victorian Britian: women of the genteel, but unmoneyed classes who do not find a husband, and find themselves socially invisible, financially straitened, and deprived of any means to fight their way out of their corner. Fear of thi
Kristina A
Aug 14, 2008 Kristina A rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like Victorian novels and/or feminist issues
Recommended to Kristina by: Kelly H.
Shelves: victorian
This novel was surprisingly good. I was expecting something more like a polemic, something in which the Issues were more important than the story. But what I got instead was surprisingly readable, well-written, and even quite suspenseful. (Okay, not in a thriller kind of way, but in a Victorian marriage plot kind of way.)

Unlike an Issue novel like Ruth (oh, Elizabeth Gaskell, I like you, but that novel has some problems!), where the protagonist is primarily a bland vehicle for making a point, Th
This is the first piece of literature that I've read by George Gissing. In fact, I had never heard of Gissing until a book was recommended by a Victorian group. After reading The Odd Women I will definitely seek out more of his works.

The setting is turn of the 19th century England. There are more women than men during this period and those women who do not possess the qualities (social class, money, looks) to attract a husband are labeled Odd Women. Two feminist women really really feminist for
Sep 13, 2012 Sera rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sera by: The Victorians
I found this book to be fascinating. Gissing represents a unique voice in Victorian literature, and he did not disappoint me with the wonderful social commentary that he wrote about the roles of the sexes and their own perceptions about what their roles should be in Victorian society. Oh yeah, and then Gissing throws in a bunch of stuff regarding the multiple purposes of getting married, the effects of loneliness on the human psyche and the crazy things that people will or won't do for love. Ele ...more
Hmmmm. Gissing is relentlessly realistic, and that was wonderful all the way up until the end when I wanted something a little different. I wanted that Victorianesque happy ending. On the other hand, I am not too upset about it. I had complicated feelings about Mr. Barfoot and Ms. Nunn. But I am satisfied at how they both grew and changed. I think Gissing is very good when it comes to writing about women. Very, very good. How advanced he was in his views and this was in the 1890s! Even giving th ...more
A vastly underrated novel. I'd never heard of this author until he was recommended on one of the Amazon threads. I enjoyed this story which at heart offers two tales of "love" by two very different women. Monica is a young woman who marries an older man and trade one prison for another. Rhoda is principled and idealistic and revels in her independence.

This novel delves into the start of the emancipation movement and is a quite fascinating look at 19th century society. Really this novel deserves
Always Pink
Lord, I'm thankful to thee that I live in the 21st century and not in Victorian times. Gissing is trying his best to elucidate his readers on the grave matter of the equality of the sexes. To follow his meanderings gives us today valuable insight into the more than sad state of affairs in his times. Some thoughts and ideas on marriage are well formulated and quite interesting. But the story as such feels heavily constructed for the sake of argument and Gissing's characters have a tendency to utt ...more
At no point was I floored by Gissing as a writer. He is one of those where you can see snatches of talent shining through in particularly poignant phrases, but it’s only here and there. For example the book opened with:

“"Mrs. Madden- having given birth to six daughters, had fulfilled her function in this wonderful world”

There is such gravitas in that sentence, especially in the contact of the rest of the scene where the audience is introduced immediately to a doubtful figure of a father who cont
Jun 06, 2009 K rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 19th cen. lit. fans; readers interested in early feminism
Recommended to K by: margueya; Gail Godwin
Shelves: classics
During the 1890s, apparently, a surplus of women and shortage of men resulted in the phenomenon of “odd” (as opposed to even, or paired-off) women – women who, for whatever reason, were not succeeding in finding a spouse. The question is, in a pre-feminist world, what were these women supposed to do? In this novel, Gissing’s female characters represent a few of the contemporary choices – withering away in unfulfilling jobs as governesses and companions, wallowing in hypochondria or alcoholism; m ...more
Jun 24, 2009 Alison rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alison by: Book Lust
Shelves: fiction
This book focuses on single women (the odd ones out of the marriage game) in 1890s England. At that time, there were far more women than men (this came up in "Governess," as well, and I am now curious as to how this imbalance came about). As a result, many women (especially those in the middle classes) had to go out and earn a living; many wound up as poorly paid governesses, others became overworked shop girls. Two of the main characters in this book have set up a school to educate women to bec ...more
Gissing isn't usually my cup of te- erm, foul thameswater adulterated with gin? -- but this was both emotionally gripping and involved some swingeing feminist polemic to boot. Widdowson joins an unholy mix of Grandcourt and Casaubon, Louis Trevelyan, Willoughby Patterne, and Soames Forsythe in inspiring me to new acrobatic heights of violent book-flinging.
Forget about Edith Wharton - this the best, most ahead-of-its-time, social commentary book I have read in a long, long time, if not ever. How come it wasn't on my radar before? It speaks about women's equality in a way that makes it incredible that it was written in the freaking 1800s. If only, the fact that it was makes it even more refreshing - because these are problems that we're already aware of but we still haven't managed to resolve, seeing it all discussed like it's new and devoid of con ...more
This is a somewhat odd book; a late 19th century work that centers on the emancipation of women, but is about that and more. "Odd women" are women who do not have any of the factors necessary to attract a husband - lacking either looks, or money, or class, or startion. Some work in sweatshop conditions (like men c.f. "Of Human Bondage"), others live on bare subsistance and/or die young. Mary Barfoot and Rhoda Nunn run a school to teach "odd women" useful office skills, most notably typing, and h ...more
This is the first book I've read by Gissing, and I must say I was truly impressed. The author's purpose, made very obvious, is the status of women during the Victorian period, in particular that of single women, the "odd" women. Gissing makes clear the lack of opportunity for these women to raise themselves out of poverty and struggle, how they must rely on such work as being governesses, shop girls, and so on, and live lives of near starvation, loneliness, and pain. However, there are two women ...more
Dec 08, 2013 Emily rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
A morbid little book.

I realize this book is/was a social satire, written by a man who evidently himself was a bit of a mess. I can't say I enjoyed much of it outside the rich style of writing characteristic of the Victorian/Edwardian era; the book itself was rather ruined for me after reading a footnote which explained Gissing's resentment and eventual abandonment of his own child, whom he deemed a "distraction" from his work - particularly, this novel, which was in progress during his son's bir
The Odd Women is a novel of ideas, somewhat in the vein of Henry James, where not much happens, but what does is all psychologically fraught and full of meaning. Gissing, however, manages to make the philosophy into more of a page-turner than James does. It is about the idea of marriage and women’s roles, wrapped around the concept of the “odd woman,” that is the idea that around the turn of the century there were more women than men in Britain. Society freaked out about the what would become of ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘I am no tyrant, but I shall rule you for your own good.’

The novel opens in 1872, with Dr Madden and his six daughters living together in a form of domestic harmony which has not prepared the daughters for independent life outside their childhood home.

Alas, this harmony is quickly destroyed. When the need arises for the sisters to earn an income, they face a number of challenges. It is hard for them to reconcile their middle-class respectability and their lack of employment related training wit
Good READ. Recommend... may even re-read.
In general, I am a thoroughly modern literature girl - but I absolutely loved The Odd Women. The only reason it didn't get the full five stars was purely to do with sheer length of the novel (although it never drags). I can't recommend it enough: its social commentary is fascinating, and it feels at times, both in terms of its themes and the roundedness of its female characters, incredibly modern.

(Additionally, "marriage in general is such a humbug" is going down as one of my all-time favourite
Richard Simpson
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and thought it a good setting for a discussion of the 'woman question'. The themes of hungry poverty and alcoholism are very close to my heart, not only because they are an indication of the style of Dostoyevsky and his representation of Russian poverty, but because I have experienced the same conditions of living, albeit from a self-imposed lifestyle rather than from economic and gendered restriction. This is where realism is so effective, describing the conditi ...more
Tam May
I found this little gem when I was doing research on fiction about the New Woman. For those who might not be familiar with this term, the New Woman was an image of the sporty, independent, young woman released from her nineteenth-century corsets. You can find out more about the New Woman here:

What surprised me about this novel is that it's about women who are truly independent in an era when women were just beginning to find their independence. Gissing show
On the one hand, I really enjoyed this because of the subject matter. I don't think I've read a 19th century novel that dealt so directly with the women's movement or that had the kind of happy ending this novel has (I do think the ending is happy and optimistic, although other readers disagree). I also enjoyed the wide range of characters and the multiple plotlines, they made it hard to put down the book. On the other hand, the plot isn't very original and most of the conflicts revolve around r ...more
This is my first of Gissing's novels, and I am so glad I was introduced to it through the Victorians group. It examines realistic issues of the "odd women" of the day -- those struggling in the middle class, who were unlikely to make comfortable marriages. How were they viewed by conventional society, the reformers who worked to change women's choices, and how those odd women viewed themselves are fascinating ingredients of this story. A good novel of the late Victorian age.
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George Robert Gissing was an English novelist who published twenty-three novels between 1880 and 1903. From his early naturalistic works, he developed into one of the most accomplished realists of the late-Victorian era.
More about George Gissing...
New Grub Street The Nether World Born in Exile In the Year of Jubilee The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

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“A womanly occupation means, practically, an occupation that a man disdains.” 6 likes
“There should be no such thing as a class of females vulgarized by the necessity of finding daily amusement.” 3 likes
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