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

Lolly Willowes

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  5,328 ratings  ·  823 reviews
Lolly Willowes, de veintiocho años, está aún soltera cuando tras la muerte de su adorado padre pasa a depender de sus hermanos. Tras ocuparse de todo durante demasiado tiempo, decide escapar de su constreñida existencia y se traslada a una pequeña aldea en Bedfordshire. Allí, feliz y sin trabas, no tardará en descubrir su verdadera vocación: la brujería. Y junto a su gato ...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published 2016 by Siruela (first published 1926)
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 Lolly Willowes, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Susan Zinner Hi Pamela. I just finished this book and loved, loved, loved it. That said, I am not sure a younger person would appreciate it as its main theme is st…moreHi Pamela. I just finished this book and loved, loved, loved it. That said, I am not sure a younger person would appreciate it as its main theme is struggling to throw off societally-imposed gender roles. You can take a look at my review if you like. I really found it to be a feminist masterpiece, but the writing may be a bit too much for a younger child.(less)
Candace Andrews Absolutely clean, and often quite beautiful. However, because the "supernatural" emerges in the last part of the book where Laura (Lolly) meets the de…moreAbsolutely clean, and often quite beautiful. However, because the "supernatural" emerges in the last part of the book where Laura (Lolly) meets the devil and goes to a witches' sabbath, a young or immature reader may not be able to understand what the author is really trying to get across.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,328 ratings  ·  823 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Lolly Willowes
This is a book about witches. But when I finally put this book down last night, I mostly just thought about my father.

I don’t think it is controversial to say that duty is a bit of an old fashioned word these days. Like honor. It’s one of those words you hear someone say and squirm uncomfortably, like you would if they said, “I’m hip to that,” without irony or asked where all the “hep cats” are partying while wearing a fedora. It’s not a word that works with a land of ironic t-shirts and Lady Ga
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Sylvia Townsend Warner, London, 1920s

When we meet Laura Willowes in the opening pages of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s first novel, Lolly Willowes (pub. 1926), her sister-in-law Caroline is distractedly offering for Laura to live in London with herself and Laura’s brother Henry, following the death of Laura’s father:

“Caroline spoke affectionately, but her thoughts were elsewhere. They had already journeyed back to London to buy an eiderdown for the bed in the small spare-room. If the washstand were m
Warner’s prose sparkles and snaps like a gin and tonic in an elegant cut glass tumbler, her humor the slice of lime contributing the essential dash of sharp acidity. Warner proves to be a most devious hostess, however: seemingly invited to a pleasantly amusing afternoon garden party, it is only as the sun begins to set that it slowly begins to dawn—this is actually a Witch’s Sabbath! What a marvelously devious sleight of hand.

And perhaps more than ever 2017 is the time for stories about waking u
I am deathly allergic to witty foreplay of the never ending sort. In more detailed terms, this is a category comprised of works written in the very worst vein of Austen, all fluffy gilt and jocular surface with none of said author's craft or deep meditation on human pathos. Now, Lolly Willowes did have some variation to its name, but when one begins with family lineage and ends with bantering dialogue and leaves little to gnaw upon between the two, it all comes off as very English. Much like wor ...more
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
“Her disquiet had no relevance to her life. It arose out of the ground with the smell of the dead leaves: it followed her through the darkening streets; it confronted her in the look of the risen moon. ‘Now! Now!’ it said to her: and no more. The moon seemed to have torn the leaves from the trees that it might stare at her more imperiously.”

The book started off well-enough. It tells the story of Laura Willowes (“Lolly”), a very independent aging spinster (I dislike that word but that’s the word
Jul 19, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This made David Mitchell's All-Time Top-Ten List, sorta:

That maybe explains The Bone Clocks.

I'm of two minds about this, though. I loved the imagery, and whole passages that made me want to applaud. Lolly goes to nurse, late in the First World War. The recruiting posters have bleached.

The ruddy young man and his Spartan mother grew pale, as if with fear, and Britannia's scarlet cloak trailing on the waters bleached to a cocoa-ish pink. Laura watched them
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I whole heartedly support the underlying philosophy or driving force of this book - proving a woman should have space of her own, a vote, a life, even if she deigns to stay single, etc. But the way the story is told deflates the message, from a three part structure that follows
1)agonizingly slow
2)feisty pseudo feminist
3)batshit crazy witchcraft (well this was a surprise)

This was the first book every offered by Book of the Month back in the day, so I enjoyed it from that curiosity standpoint, bu
It's like Barbara Pym started this story, left it unfinished, and then it was discovered by a manic Satanist who scribbled the rest of it all in one night. I totally enjoyed it, but what a hot mess. ...more
Britta Böhler
Just my kind of snarky lit.
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Terence by: Nation book review of Summer Will Show
I wish I could write in such a way as to convey the rhythms and flavor of Lolly Willowes, which is only one of the things I fell in love with while reading this book. There was always a tendency to get so caught up in the prose that I forgot to follow along in the action and had to go back and reread passages (a “good” thing in this case).

I’ve tried to find a representative passage short enough to reproduce here so readers don’t imagine that I’m making things up but I can’t so I’ll just throw in
Oct 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in a wonderful "lost classic" and women's independence
Wow! A great book. Impossible to say much without giving away the treasures to be discovered in these pages. As the jacket says, "an upper-class spinster rebels against her role as the universal aunt" and how does she do this? With the help of the Devil. But not the devil we are often told of--this is a loving huntsman, who catches women's souls to save them from dying by the confines of society. This is not a sort of compelling, page-turner read but every time I decided to sit down with it, I w ...more
Laura finds her life suffocated by controlling and overbearing relatives. She takes drastic measures to gain independence. I found the ending strange, this book must have been quite shocking at the time it was published !
Emily M
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyrb
4.5 stars

As Laura stood waiting she felt a great longing. It weighed upon her like the load of ripened fruit upon a tree. She forgot the shop, the other customers, her own errand. She forgot the winter air outside, the people going by on the wet pavements. She forgot that she was in London, she forgot the whole of her London life. She seemed to be standing alone in a darkening orchard, her feet in the grass, her arms stretched up to the pattern of leaves and fruit, her fingers seeking the rounde
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story itself is tender and a little magical, and I simply adored the character of Lolly Willowes herself. Laura Willowes (to allow her, her given name) is a dutiful unmarried daughter of twenty eight when her beloved father dies. Laura had always enjoyed her quiet life in the country, sometimes gathering herbs and making distillations with them. Laura is at one with the countryside, and its yearly round of traditions. Born some years after her two elder brothers; Henry and James, Laura grew ...more
By the time the Great War had ended, the world was a bit tipsy. Perhaps the strongest survivors were the women who had worked in the factories and found themselves with extra money, more freedom, and a yearning for more rights. The 1920s brought somewhat liberated young women to the forefront, as they were the remaining half of the wiped-out generation. This book is really a reflection of that new fast-moving world, as young Lolly Willowes decides to start doing her life the way she wants it don ...more
Book of the Month
In April of 1926, a fledgling Book of the Month Club announced its first ever selection, Lolly Willowes. Written by debut author Sylvia Townsend Warner, the novel tells the story of an unmarried woman who refuses to live the life that her family and society expects her to live. A bold and beguiling story about personal freedom, uneasy friendships, and witchcraft, Lolly Willowes was selected despite the fact that its author was completely unknown at the time.

Warner went on to have a long and resp
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: lethe
I’m not sure what I expected to happen in this novel, but whatever it was, I didn’t get it. I don’t want to say what I did get, because even though the clues are there, it’s best to come upon it, as the title character does, with an anticipation of autumn, by an old warehouse, or in a clearing, or in the woods, or near a Folly.

If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about. This is my first Sylvia Townsend Warner, but if you know her other writing, perhaps you can guess what I mean. If
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, kindle-owned
The title was playful, but I didn't understand the purpose of the book. Nothing interesting happened. Rather, nothing happened. A spinster moves to a place because she liked a flower that was grown there, her nephew moves there and she all of a sudden hates him for no reason, she sees a man who is the devil, she wakes up a witch and nothing happens because of it. What? On a positive note, it was short. ...more
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
British writer Sylvia Townsend Warner is best known for the short stories that appeared over decades in The New Yorker. Even brief biographical blurbs usually reference her leftist political affiliations and sometimes her 40-year relationship with Valentine Ackland, a poet. “Lolly Willowes,” the first of her seven novels, was published in 1926 and was a bestseller both in the U.K. and in the U.S., where it was the first selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club.

“Even in 1902, there were some forwa
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyrb, 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 ...more
Originally read in Nov. 2000; rereading Sept. 2017. Original review below.
When I read Lolly Willowes, I was enchanted by the delicacy and humor of Sylvia Townsend Warner's prose, and I felt a kinship with the Lolly, a woman who refuses to recede into the background and lead a conventional life. To cut to the chase - she becomes a witch - that is, she gives herself over to the spirit of adventure. The pact she makes with the devil (who appears in the guise of a middle aged man) is of the sort th
I'd call this one - "The Story That Got Away". I liked it a lot, liked the character, the premise, the writing - everything, and then it just faded away. I loved the whole older-woman-takes-control-of-her-life-and-defies-all-conventions theme, and Warner had just placed Aunt Lolly in a sweet spot where she could've gotten into all kinds of trouble, when she backed off and let it slip away. It's too bad, the writing was very good, and Laura was an intriguing character. ...more
Beth Bonini
That was one of the advantages of dealing with witches; they do not mind if you are a little odd in your ways, frown if you are late for meals, fret if you are out all night, pry and commiserate when at length you return. Lovely to be with people who prefer their own thoughts to yours, lovely to live at your own sweet will, lovely to sleep out all night!

As an unmarried woman, a ‘spinster’, Laura ‘Aunt Lolly’ Willowes has been considered something of a family burden for 20 years - a ‘duty’ to
J.M. Hushour
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another sublime achievement by Warner who seems like a sadly under-sung, under-read genius, a real polymath of the human soul (for those that have them)!
Laura Willowes never gets married, gets shuttled off to her brother's stuffy, middle-class London home when her father dies, ending her country idyll, and basically lives as an aging spinster while everyone tries to marry her off. Not content with her life being led and virtually lived by others, she takes off for the sleepy village of Great Mop
Apr 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1926, this was the debut novel for Sylvia Townsend Warner, and is the first book I have read by her.

Our main character is Laura Willowes, the much beloved daughter of Everard Willowes, a wealthy brewer. Laura has two brothers, Henry and James, and an idyllic childhood. Although she is still very young, at twenty eight, when her father dies, in her family’s eyes, she is a spinster and needs to come under the wing of one of her brothers. Thus is is that ‘Aunt Lolly,’ leaves the
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to tattoo every sentence in my brain
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Come here, my bird! I will give you the dangerous black night to stretch your wings in, and poisonous berries to feed on, and a nest of bones and thorns, perched high up in danger where no one can climb to it.

This is a radical feminist English magical realist novel, and pre-story to Silent Spring, written in brilliant sardonic understatement. i can’t believe it isn’t more well known. I’ve thought a lot about this and don’t think i can do much but quote bits without giving too much of the (absolu
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I was so looking forward to this. I have read her Summer Will Show. I remember liking that, but I note in my review Because I did not like the direction taken toward the end, I'm having a hard time rating this. Funny, I don't remember the ending of that one at all. (Working hard at remembering, some of it seeps through, however.)

The premise of Lolly Willowes is that a spinster in Victorian/Edwardian times has no job. Such a woman is very nearly without purpose. In this case, she can be her fathe
A few weeks ago I lent out Lolly Willowes to a neighbour, and she was so enthralled by it that it put me right in the mood for a reread.

Although only tangentially related to R.I.P. (there is a supernatural element, but I'd say the book is more magical realist), it has a very autumnal atmosphere, and since the weather has become colder and we have had lots of rain, it was the perfect time for it.

I still love Parts 1 and 2 as much as I did when I first read it back in 2002, but I'm still not happy
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Life and Death of Harriett Frean
  • The Vet's Daughter
  • Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead
  • Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West: Love Letters
  • A Game of Hide and Seek
  • Miss Mole
  • Paris: A Poem
  • The Wedding Group
  • Square Haunting: Five Writers in London Between the Wars
  • Tea Is So Intoxicating
  • All the Devils Are Here
  • The Conjure-Man Dies: A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem
  • V for Victory
  • Our Spoons Came from Woolworths
  • A View of the Harbour
  • Bone China
  • Excellent Women
  • Passing
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Sylvia Townsend Warner was born at Harrow on the Hill, the only child of George Townsend Warner and his wife Eleanora (Nora) Hudleston. Her father was a house-master at Harrow School and was, for many years, associated with the prestigious Harrow History Prize which was renamed the Townsend Warner History Prize in his honor, after his death in 1916. As a child, Sylvia seemingly enjoyed an idyllic ...more

Related Articles

Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
395 likes · 37 comments
“It is best as one grows older to strip oneself of possessions, to shed oneself downward like a tree, to be almost wholly earth before one dies.” 1127 likes
“One doesn’t become a witch to run around being harmful, or to run around being helpful either, a district visitor on a broomstick. It’s to escape all that - to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to by others.” 63 likes
More quotes…