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

The Unlit Lamp

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  157 ratings  ·  22 reviews
This novel portrays the love - and hate - that can exist between women. Joan's mother binds her daughter to her with hoops of steel, a trap which nothing can spring no career, no man and certainly no woman.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 5th 1993 by Dial Press (first published 1924)
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 Unlit Lamp, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Unlit Lamp

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  157 ratings  ·  22 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
‘Joan! I don’t know you awfully well , and of course you’re only a kid as yet, but Elizabeth says you’re clever— and don’t you let yourself be bottled.’
‘Bottled?’ she queried.
‘Don’t you get all cramped up and fuggy, like one does when one sits over a fire all day. I know what I mean, it sounds all rot, only it isn’t rot. You look out! I have a presentiment that they mean to bottle you.’

I figured I would The Unlit Lamp before attempting Radclyffe Hall's more famous (or infamous) work The Well of
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Radclyffe Hall is one of my guilty pleasures. I just can't resist those honest, intense, miserable lesbians.

The Unlit Lamp is the usual early 20th-Century tale of gay women who sacrifice their happiness to satisfy the wants and expectations of others, resulting in unhappiness all round and painful martyrdom for the central characters, who turn down every happiness offered them.

Silvia Comino
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
El título original que Radclyffe Hall dio a Casi un amor fue The Unlit Lamp; no suelo entrar en la cuestión de la traducción de títulos, pero en este caso me ha llamado la atención, y no porque piense que esta no refleje, aunque sea en parte, la esencia del libro, sino porque creo que el original engloba todos los aspectos que trata la novela, cosa que el de la versión castellana, en mi opinión, no hace.

El libro narra la historia de Joan Ogden, una joven de finales del siglo XIX que lucha entre
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much. It may be the most depressing book I've ever read but it was brilliant! Not knowing much going in really helped. It was about two sisters growing up at the end of the 19th century. Both had dreams, one wanted to go to the Royal Collge of Music and play the violin, the other, a tall thin boyish girl, wanted to study and become a doctor. But they lived in a deadend town with selfish parents. The characterisation was just perfect. When I read the Well of loneliness I comp ...more
Sep 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
The Unlit Lamp, the story of Joan Ogden, a young girl who dreams of setting up a flat in London with her friend Elizabeth (a so-called Boston marriage) and studying to become a doctor, but feels trapped by her manipulative mother's emotional dependence on her. It's grim, you want to shake Joan so much, but Radclyffe Hall writes the story not just for this one character but for all women whose lives are lived in quiet desperation submitting to the will of others. A powerful story to make anyone h ...more
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Absolutely beautiful human insight. I don't think am so lucky that a college professor made me read Radclyffe Hall. You share the experiences with all of her characters so tangibly. I feel like there should be more Radclyffe Hall and Willa Cather in schools less Catcher in the Rye.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Even though The Well of Loneliness has some really funky writing, I found it to be a pretty compelling and moving read. This one? It needed some serious editing. The writing wasn't as convoluted as TWoL, but it really should have been tightened up. The story itself was interesting but went a couple of directions, and wound up in a place, that didn't really make the tediousness of it all pay off.
Troy Alexander
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Exquisitely written. Completely depressing. I loved it.
Mar 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: queer, classics
This was a slow-moving, character-based story about Joan Ogden's life, a girl who's smart and interested in medicine but constantly constrained by her parents, especially her mother's, small-mindedness and clingy love. On the other hand, there's Elizabeth, her teacher, friend and confidante, who grows to love her and who she grows to love.
It's a story about dependence, and being trapped by a person and a place, the desire to move on, move further from what we started with. (view spoiler)
Will Nelson
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book about women all trying to escape from their lives and squeezing each other too tight in the process. It was pretty bleak at times, but there were funny bits too, and even when Joan's mother was awful to her, the author stayed sympathetic to her perspective as well. Better yet, it didn't give the impression of victim-blaming or going on the side of the abuser; rather, it indicated that they were all victims of the same system. That message could be a little heavy handed, ...more
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
My second outing reading Radclyffe Hall (I had previously read the infamous The Well of Loneliness) and as with the other novel, I loved this book. So much feels preordained as the novel begins, but it's a page-turner nonetheless. Grappling head-on with the subjugation of women (within their own families) in a time not-so-distant from our own, the book particularly addresses the feelings of alienness gay people must certainly have felt as they recognized their own desires as different from the s ...more
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I think the BBC or A&E should make a film or miniseries based on a book by Radclyffe Hall, preferably The Unlit Lamp or The Well of Loneliness.

The Unlit Lamp is depressing, but don't let that stop you from reading it. According to the author, she was inspired to write this book when she saw an elderly mother with a middle-aged spinster daughter waiting on her. While I don't people sued these clinical terms in the 1920s, it is obvious to me that the protagonist's parents both have major cases
Tristan Goding
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well, it's not exactly what I'd call "brilliant", but there was something rather darkly fascinating about it. It ended up being one of the fastest and most engrossing reads I've ever had, despite it telling a story that was next to impossible to stomach or to even morally comprehend. What can I say? It was a powerful read.
Oct 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: A curious mind..
Good short fiction reading, giving the reader a feel of a simpler way of life around the turn of the 20th Century. The reader feels like a middle-class or upper middle-class young adult who likes to read a varity of books to improve intellect and imagination.
Sep 02, 2007 rated it liked it
this book is not terrifying, but it creates an itch i can never satisfy. if you combime "mommie, dearest" with a piece of mildly lesbian-themed classic 19th century literature... you have the unlit lamp.
May 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Beautifully written and awfully depressing, but what does one expect of Radclyffe Hall?
Sarah Anderson
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very good but very sad. All about unfufilled ambition. Very well written and engaging. Tragic but very realistic story of the pepople who you love holding you back.
Nov 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love her writing style. The story is a page turner.
Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Above my expectations. RH IS a good writer (to my opinion)
Dec 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
rated it it was amazing
Jun 23, 2016
Andrea Engle
rated it liked it
Jun 28, 2014
rated it really liked it
Nov 06, 2010
Amy Withnall
rated it really liked it
Mar 02, 2013
rated it liked it
May 11, 2012
Cori Samuel
rated it it was amazing
Jan 26, 2019
rated it really liked it
Jun 09, 2017
Kimberly Gibson
rated it liked it
May 11, 2010
Daisy Lee
rated it really liked it
Oct 12, 2014
Arushi Bhaskar
rated it it was amazing
Aug 12, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Anderby Wold
  • The Trials of Radclyffe Hall
  • Devoted Ladies
  • Mary Olivier, a Life
  • The Lost Traveller
  • Harriet Hume
  • The Echoing Grove
  • Diana of the Crossways
  • In a Summer Season
  • The Constant Nymph
  • Phoebe Junior (Chronicles of Carlingford, #6)
  • The Daisy Chain, Or, Aspirations: A Family Chronicle
  • Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther
  • Summer Will Show
  • Illyrian Spring
  • Brian Eno: His Music And The Vertical Color Of Sound
  • Journey to a Woman
  • The Beautiful Boy
See similar books…
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
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Joan has a right to love whom she likes, and to go where she likes and to work and be independent and happy, and if she can’t be happy then she has a right to make her own unhappiness; it’s a thousand times better to be unhappy in your own way than to be happy in someone else’s.” 0 likes
More quotes…