Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Well of Loneliness” as Want to Read:
The Well of Loneliness
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Well of Loneliness

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  9,442 Ratings  ·  510 Reviews
First published in 1928, this timeless portrayal of lesbian love is now a classic. The thinly disguised story of Hall's own life, it was banned outright upon publication and almost ruined her literary career.
Paperback, 414 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Wordsworth Editions (first published 1928)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Well of Loneliness, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Mike Stoten Raftery is shot and so is another horse on the front line - both by Stephen.
Mike Stoten de are wells in scripture - in the OT and also in the New; where Jesus asks for water from a woman in a strange land. None are mentioned as being…morede are wells in scripture - in the OT and also in the New; where Jesus asks for water from a woman in a strange land. None are mentioned as being wells of loneliness per se although the woman would have been pretty lonely given her antecedents!(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jamie Whitt
Nov 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
it should be MANDATORY that everyone reads this book. everyone. there isn't anything too astounding about her writing style, and nothing too "deep" about it either. anyone could pick up this book and see clearly everything she's very clearly alluding to, so there isn't much mystery, but instead, a whole lot of straightforward honesty about an aspect of the world most overlook without even realizing.

what broke back mountain failed miserably in doing, ratcliffe did with ease. this isn't some kinky
...more
mark monday
Jul 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: queertime, romantika
what could have been a fascinating chronicle of a tough butch interloper challenging mainstream society becomes the drippy tale of a woman who just wants to be loved, and the cruel little bitch who leads her on. oh what a deep well! the writing's pretty swell though, that can't be denied. tres elegante. i was reminded of e.m. forster's equally drippy, equally beautiful (but rather more enjoyable) Maurice. plus i actually preferred the wish fulfillment of Maurice, sad to say. guess i'm not such a ...more
BrokenTune
Nov 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
‘God,’ she gasped, we believe; we have told You we believe . . . We have not denied You, then rise up and defend us. Acknowledge us, oh God, before the whole world. Give us also the right to our existence!’

First things first, the cover on this edition is absurdly unrepresentative of the book.

Second, I liked the book. I would even recommend the book - it's just that it should come with a few notes:

1. It is endlessly long. And detailed. For no purpose. Whatsoever. If the length of the book was su
...more
Bill
this book was banned in England on publication in 1928, which of course made it a huge bestseller. and as it was published in France and the USA, it was easy to obtain copies.

and, of course, it is so tame by today's standards. the most explicit line in the book is "she kissed her full on the lips, like a lover". but the powers that be in England judged anything even hinting at lesbianism to be immoral.

in any event, it is a very fine novel, on it's own merits, and I really enjoyed it. the author
...more
Jardley
Apr 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Internalized homophobic homosexuals
I read The Well of Loneliness because of was very interested in reading novels on homosexuality. I needed something to relate to. The book centers around a girl whose father desperately wanted a boy and so named her Stephen. Throughout her childhood Stephen is shown as a girl unlike others. The way she carries herself, the way she acts and the fantasies she has about seeing herself as "Nelson", stress the fact Stephen sexuality is in question. As she grow, Stephen begins to find love in women an ...more
Jesse
Recently in these parts I declared that this novel was so dull that today it is essentially unreadable, and that its lasting importance has everything to do with history and not a thing to do with art. And I still generally stand behind these sentiments.

BUT.

I read it. And I kind of enjoyed it, at least in parts. I had based the above judgements on reading the first 60 pages or so (in retrospect the weakest section of the entire novel) and upon my decision to incorporate it in a paper on the que
...more
Stef Rozitis
This book moves slowly and thoughtfully through many shades of tragedy. There's a sort of integrity to it. Not all readers will appreciate the Christian symbolism and theology but I did- the constant please for meaning and acceptance by a sort of outcast. A few times I sort of experienced Stephen as unrelatable because of how ridiculously wealthy she was, but then there were people like Jamie and Barbara to add counterpoint to it, there was just enough shown of the servants to undo the idea that ...more
Natasha (Diarist) Holme
I read this the first time around in 1988, during my first term at university, hiding it from my room mate, under the covers. I enjoyed it then as the third lesbian book I'd ever read (after Patience & Sarah and Annie on My Mind), but found it harsh.

Slogging through it a second time now, for the Lesbian Book Club book of the month, it felt interminable. No detail is left unmentioned. Oh wait ... "and that night they were not divided." Just the odd detail lacking. That one sentence caused the
...more
Jon
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
If one thinks of "The Well of Loneliness" as having been written by a homophobic, sexist straight man then it begins to make sense. The central character (and stand-in for author Radclyffe Hall) is not a self-loathing lesbian at all, he's a transgendered man, and he's not exactly gay-friendly. The identification of Jonathan Brockett as gay by describing his hands as being “as white and soft as a woman’s,” for example, emphasizes Stephen’s conflicted feelings about his own sexuality and the femin ...more
Lori
Sep 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: childhood
I remember checking this book out of the public library near my house and hiding it from my parents, so I must have been about 12 the first time I read it. It lived under my mattress for about three days while I read it. I think I checked out "One in Ten" along with it, heh.

The first time I read this book, I thought it was amazing. A queer love story from what seemed like forever ago! Wow! At the time, I felt alone and isolated, and it spoke to me. My second reading in college was not nearly as
...more
Marina
Reading this book proved incredibly difficult. I was unsure how to rate it, but decided for 2 stars in the end: the story is a very good one, extremely interesting, but the writing is so dull you can't begin to understand if you haven't read it. I'm sorry to have to say this, but it's what I felt about this book.

I understand why it is such an important book in literary history, but I really, really disliked it.

First of all, I don't really know why this should be considered as a story of lesbian
...more
Nickie
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
Yerk. This is/was obviously a very important book, so it feels a shame to give it such a low grade but jaysus it was a bit painful after the novelty of the first 200 pages had worn off. The fact that it deals with lesbianism/gender issues in such a forthright way, especially for the time in which it was written ('20s)is v impressive. Orlando came out in the same year, but it doesn't deal with it as explicitly. No more than something like Twelfth Night did. Anyway, in the case of The Well... - im ...more
El
I love reading books that have at some point been a source of controversy, the books that have been banned and censored, questioned and attacked. The Well of Loneliness is one of those books, and by looking at the cover of the edition I read there's a clue right there as to the reasoning for the controversy: "A 1920s Classic of Lesbian Fiction".

Steven Gordon is a wealthy English woman who is clearly not like other women, even from a young age. Her father had hoped for a boy and pinned those hope
...more
Laura
Jul 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is possibly the most beautiful book I have ever read. The prose is simply exquisite. Hall proves that imagery does not have to be tedious and overwraught. I felt a hundred times while reading this novel that I had never heard such a sentiment expressed so perfectly. In fact, sometimes the prose was so beautiful that the context almost faded away entirely, and I was simply left with a breath-taking sentence, paragraph or more...

Sadly, this book is still relevant 90 years after it was penned.
...more
Nikki
May 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, queer
I don't know what to think of The Well of Loneliness. I read it because it's a lesbian classic, and someone said that it was one of the first novels where horrible things don't have to happen to its lesbian protagonists. I can't actually imagine anything more agonising than what the protagonist, Stephen, does -- voluntarily giving up her lover to a male close friend to give her safety and security, acting as a martyr for her... And Barbara and Jamie: both of them die because of the life they lea ...more
Meg
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny enough I find the character of Stephen quite similar to the character of Jo in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Both would have preferred to be men and both find the demeanor, dress and lifestyle expectations of women in their day to be dreary. Stephen is simply the sisterless, unloved, rich version of Jo.

Something about the choices Hall makes with the character of Stephen highlight her gender and sexual differences in a way that Alcott does not. They have many of the same thoughts, eeril
...more
Micah
Aug 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Conclusions, casually presented and in no particular order because I don't feel like putting together a well-written review.

• Bless, this book is so very of its time. This is wonderful when it is waxing poetic about the English countryside or pre-war Paris; it is less so anytime black people are present or even alluded to. Also the pervasive (and I don't think entirely conscious) disdain for femme gender presentation -- god, the bits where the narration is picking on poor Jonathan Brockett and h
...more
Liz
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like this book, but found it very, very depressing. Not depressing in a 'Im gonna slit my wrist with the sharp edges of the pages' depressed, more like a 'why is the word so cruel, where is my God now?' kind of depressed.

I really don't think the main protagonist Stephen needed to suffer so much; if Hall was trying to empower the 'inverted' and educate the mass about the 'inverted' I think she was smoking too many pipes, because if I had been 'inverted' in those days I would have weighe
...more
Jamie
Dec 10, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: masochists
So I read this for a Lesbian Literatures course, and I have to state from the outset that I am well aware of the *significance* of the novel in such a course, and such a subset of lesbian history. Certainly it was landmark, insofar as the book was one of the (perhaps THE?) first to openly deal with homosexual or inverted desire. Moreover, the trial that banned the book brought the novel, Radclyffe Hall, and the 'lesbian identity' into the public eye in a rather big way. All very well and good.

Ho
...more
Katie
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: undergrad, 2017
4.5 stars
Amanda Roper
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: viragoproject
well that was overwrought
Melanti
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went into this thinking that it was the first lesbian romance novel, but it turns out that it's neither a romance, nor (technically) about a lesbian.

While Stephan has a couple of romantic partners, that's far from the focus of the book. Instead, it's more about Stephan's feelings of inadequacy and alienation due to her sexual orientation. While it's clear that Stephan is in love with Mary, the writing about those emotions feels a great deal more restrained than the scenes where she's wishing
...more
Jeremy George
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I realised the beauty of this book when, halfway through, i looked up at the sky and realised i too was stuck in the well of loneliness - sitting next to the protagonist as she read the bleak poetic prose out loud to me.
Sath
So, Stephen.. She's born sometime in the late 18-somethings to well off parents, they call her Stephen because her parents have wanted and somewhat expected a boy child for about 10 years, and her father wants to stick with the name they chose. As it turns out, they did pretty much get a boy. As a child stephen likes to pretend she's Nelson, fancies herself in love with the housemaid, throws her dolls away, wears trousers and rides astride her horse like a boy.
Her father is very supportive, and
...more
Jasmine
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERY LGBT person...seriously
Recommended to Jasmine by: Liz
Shelves: favorites, lez-lit
WOW...where do I even start? This is honestly one of the most thought provoking and emotionally charged books that I have ever read.

Why thought provoking? Because it made me think about so many aspects of my own life that had been challenged by the mostly bigoted and homophobic society that I live in. Through Stephen, Hall touches upon the many challenges and struggles that LGBT people had to put up with (and still have to put up with) today. Yes - that's right - if we are honest with ourselves,
...more
M.
Dec 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
the determined personification of pets here is particularly charming. we love our pets!
Tocotin

This was quite good. Yes, the story was silly at times, yes, the style was overdramatized, but it did have a lot of power and passion. I didn’t know much about Hall before I read this, but she also struck me as unusually religiously-minded. Only after I learned that she converted to Catholicism; it must all have been very important to her.

Points up for compassion & sympathy towards animals, points down for racism and misogyny. The latter brings to mind Mary Renault, just a bit: Renault is ve
...more
Jason
Jan 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a vacuum this is fairly overplayed, melodramatic, and clichéd. A story ab ovo that traces a woman’s life in which she painfully discovers that she is a lesbian (a word not used once in the novel though emblazoned on its cover—"A 1920s Classic of Lesbian Fiction"). But once the dust of that self-revelation settles, rather than repent her plight , the protagonist actually embraces her renegade status, although she doesn’t go too far. In fact, she is somewhat conservative in her views, repeated ...more
Alun Williams
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, ...more
Jennifer Linsky
It took me more than a fortnight to finish this book, and for me, that's a great deal of time, indeed.

The problem is that Radclyffe Hall's prose is beautiful. One need only look at the numerous quotes from this book to see that she has a sure and skillful way with words. But the situations she writes about are difficult, miserable times for the most part.

You must remember, of course, that the book was published in 1928; Hall was not writing for me, or for others who might today call ourselves S
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Patience & Sarah
  • Chloe Plus Olivia: An Anthology of Lesbian Literature from the Seventeenth Century to the Present
  • Odd Girl Out
  • The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader
  • Stone Butch Blues
  • Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us
  • Desert of the Heart
  • Olivia
  • Aimée & Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin 1943
  • The World Unseen
  • Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature
  • Love Stories: Sex between Men before Homosexuality
  • Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community
  • Missed Her
  • The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us
  • Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present
  • Curious Wine
74248
Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall was born on the south coast of England. Her mother may have battered her, while her father, a playboy known as 'Rat', ignored her. In the drawing rooms of Edwardian society, Marguerite made a small name for herself as a poet and librettist. In 1907 she met a middle-aged fashionable singer, Mrs Mabel Batten, known as 'Ladye", who introduced her to influential people. Batte ...more
More about Radclyffe Hall...

Share This Book

“The world hid its head in the sands of convention, so that by seeing nothing it might avoid Truth. ” 29 likes
“What a terrible thing could be freedom. Trees were free when they were uprooted by the wind; ships were free when they were torn from their moorings; men were free when they were cast out of their homes—free to starve, free to perish of cold and hunger.” 23 likes
More quotes…