Alun Williams's Reviews > The Well of Loneliness

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
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Aug 02, 2011

really liked it
Read in March, 2010

I've known of this book for many years, but, as a vaguely heterosexual male, had avoided reading it. What a treat I had been missing. This is a marvellously complex and disturbing book, which will provoke strong reactions in almost anyone who reads it today - it will be an equally uncomfortable read whatever your attitude towards homosexual relationships. This book is far more than a significant milestone in gay and lesbian literature. It is a milestone in the literature of love - love for home, love for parents, love for servants, love for animals, platonic friendship, and love for God are all important in this book. Many incidents which are very particular to the time and milieu in which the heroine, Stephen Gordon, grows up are recounted, yet I found it easy to identify with her, as well as sometimes to laugh at her. It is one of the most honest books I have ever read.
The author had some theories about homosexuality which will strike most modern readers as bizarre, or even quaint. But these did not spoil my enjoyment of the book at all - instead they made me wonder which of my attitudes might come equally odd in eighty years time. One of the most satisfying things for me about the book is that Radclyffe Hall is not afraid to be confused. While she is clear that love between women is something that sometimes arises naturally and should be celebrated as much as love between a man and a woman, instead of being condemned as it was in her day, she seems equally sure that such relationships are problematical. But, I feel that really she could be writing about any intimate relationship - I think she is saying that relationships are always difficult, that the attitudes of the outside world, and the passage of time, will always cause problems for a couple.
passage of time, will always cause problems for a couple.
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