Rosana's Reviews > Lolly Willowes

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
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Dec 23, 12

bookshelves: 2012, nyrb
Read in December, 2012

My paternal grand-mother went back to school in her sixties. She had always wanted to be a lawyer, but a girl born in 1917 in a traditional family in Brazil was not to fulfill such ideas. She married at age 20 and had 4 children. Her youngest child died at age 2, and my grandfather died soon after. She was 47 when she became a widow – a year younger than I am now -and she came undone! Widowhood suited her better than married life. Her older children were married or already gone. She found a job by chance: governess of the town’s hospital. She travelled. She read books. She learned how to drive and bought a car. She decided that it was not too late to be a lawyer and took night classes for 2 years… until a second bout of breast cancer stopped her. She died at age 65.

Lolly Willowes made me think of her; of feminism rising from deep in the soul, often not overly verbalized, but sensed by those around her. My grand-mother, like Lolly, was a witch and made a pact with the devil, for the god of her days would had kept her chained to a kitchen stove, to the church bazaar, to babysitting grand-children. But as a witch she got to fly above it all.

I can only imagine how this book must have seemed revolutionary in 1926 when it was published. It precludes Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. But if the details of the story appear dated – a spinster at the mercy of her family in Britain at the beginning of the 20th century – the pressures of social expectation still binding women to roles that don’t suit us all is still real.

My inner witch is happy I finally got around to reading it!
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker Capitu, I love what you had to say here about your grandmother.


Rosana Well, thank you both!


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