Jim's Reviews > The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
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Oct 14, 2007

really liked it
Recommended for: People who might have forgotten why feminism was needed
Read in October, 2007

My first thought when it comes to this book has nothing whatsoever to do with its content. The cover of the Virago edition, a British press established to champion women writers, chose to market this early feminist text by splashing a nude woman, albeit seen from the rear but with a very pleasant posterior, across the front cover. This, I have to confess, caught my eye, and induced me to pick up the book which I subsequently bought for my wife, but I don’t quite get their motivation – other than to sell books. At the same time, having so much bare flesh on the cover didn’t exactly encourage me to take the book with me to read in the doctor’s office.

Although the publisher calls this a novel, it only lasts for twenty-eight pages and the rest of the book is given over to an admittedly informative ‘Afterword’ that gives the story some context. It was an enjoyable twenty-eight pages though. The author’s style is spare and yet she manages a surprising amount of detail at the same time. It charts the mental disintegration of the narrator and reminded me of a nineteenth century Janice Galloway (The Trick is to Keep Breathing), through comparison to Poe is not unwarranted either. Of course, reading the book now it’s hard to see why it was radical at the time; it’s so tame and genteel. That is where it’s necessary to read in between the lines. Also that is where likening it to something by Poe does the story a disservice; it is more that a simple psychological tale of horror, it is an indictment of the institution of marriage.

Dated? Perhaps. Out of date? If it was I suppose there wouldn’t be feminism any more.
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