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A Room of One's Own
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Short Story/Novella Collection > A Room of One's Own - January 2018

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message 1: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob | 4913 comments Mod
Our January 2018 Short Story Read is A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf, 112 pages, 1929


Pink | 6556 comments I hope you all enjoy this book. I have a mixed record with Woolf's fiction, but found this an easy and insightful read. I thought she gave a very accurate assessment of women's writing and the barriers of being a female author pre 20th century. A great title too!


Brina I loved the meaning behind the title. I also found the writing to be accessible but am apprehensive to read her fiction.


Piyangie | 417 comments Read and loved it.


Piyangie | 417 comments This was my first read of Virginia Woolf and which made me want to read her work. So far, I have read three of her books and have liked them all.


Bat-Cat | 1299 comments Brina wrote: "I loved the meaning behind the title. I also found the writing to be accessible but am apprehensive to read her fiction."

Brina, was the title for this the inspiration for the "Man Cave"? I want a room of my own - what an awesome idea. :-)


message 7: by Melanti (new) - added it

Melanti | 2384 comments How is the writing style of this compared to her fiction? The most I've managed to read of any of her books is around 20 pages. I normally wouldn't consider even trying another one, but if it's written differently, I might give it a shot.


Brina The style was witty. The inspiration was a man cave. Woolf believed that all a woman needed to be successful to write is a Room of One's Own Own and $500 a year for expenses. At the time women were expected to be mothers only even if they were otherwise successful. Woolf noted that other than Mary Shelley until then there were few successful women writers and she set out to change this. Ahead of her time, witty. No I have not read her fiction and I should but hearing that it's so different than this I don't know where to start.


Pink | 6556 comments Melanti, I found her style more straightforward. No stream of consciousness here, which is usually the problem for people who don't like her fiction. I have a love/hate relationship with her novels. I don't enjoy the process of reading them, but there's something that keeps me going back for more!

Brina, I think Mrs Dalloway is a great starting place for Woolf. Or To the Lighthouse would be okay. I found Orlando less like her usual style and The Waves her toughest to get through and not one I'd recommend to start with.


Brina I guess I will try To The Lighthouse. The title reminds me of the beach.


Rosemarie | 1556 comments I agree with Pink that her style is straightforward in this book and the content is interesting and a pleasure to read.


Kathleen | 3798 comments I agree too that reading this is very different than her fiction. It's sort of an exploratory essay. I read it in a women's lit class years ago and looking forward to re-reading soon.

If I remember right, there is a lot of historical and literary references worth exploring, but not necessary to still get lots out of it.

And I agree with Bat-Cat--the title alone is fun to sort of dream about!


Candi (candih) | 770 comments I read A Room of One's Own and really enjoyed it. It had been my first reading of Woolf and encouraged me to give her fiction a try. I then read The Voyage Out and found that accessible, with less of a stream of consciousness feel to it. I believe it was an earlier work. I then read Mrs. Dalloway and while I liked it, I found it more difficult to get through than The Voyage Out. I do own a few of her other titles and will give them a chance... eventually :)


message 14: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3176 comments Candi wrote: "I read A Room of One's Own and really enjoyed it. It had been my first reading of Woolf and encouraged me to give her fiction a try. I then read The Voyage Out and found ..."

I loved The Voyage Out! I'm very glad that I read it before any other of hers. I loved the writing - it wasn't stream of consciousness. I'm going to read her novels in order with Night and Day next. Her 3rd novel Jacob's Room is supposed to be when she started experimenting with stream of consciousness.


Teija (neitit) | 9 comments As an English major it shames me that I have never read a whole work from Woolf, only some snippets. Glad to have that fixed!


Candi (candih) | 770 comments Sue, I loved The Voyage Out, too. I had also decided that perhaps reading her books in order would be best. However, I have not yet started on this goal! I am new to this group, but perhaps this will be a good place for me to start working towards it :)


message 17: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3176 comments Candi wrote: "Sue, I loved The Voyage Out, too. I had also decided that perhaps reading her books in order would be best. However, I have not yet started on this goal! I am new to this group, but perhaps this wi..."

I put Night and Day on my BINGO challenge so hopefully I'll get to it. I'll probably only get to one of hers per year because this group has me so booked up. Booked up in a good way!


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2052 comments I will be reading this too.I liked her To the Lighthouse..the stream of consciousness was tough but in the end I felt happy to have read it.


Jehona | 182 comments I liked it very much. This should be read by everyone. It is still true and it is true for other intellectual pursuits as well as writing.


Christine | 1217 comments I finished this today and really enjoyed it. I loved Woolf's wit and sarcasm, and all her speculations about different writers. She makes excellent points that seemed very applicable to the conversations our group has been having about reading more classics by women.

The edition I read (actually the audio narrated by Juliet Stevenson, who was amazing as always) also included a few of Woolf's short stories. One of these was The New Dress, which takes place at a party at Mrs. Dalloway's house. I thought it was terrific.


message 21: by Melanti (new) - added it

Melanti | 2384 comments Pink wrote: "Melanti, I found her style more straightforward. No stream of consciousness here, which is usually the problem for people who don't like her fiction. I have a love/hate relationship with her novels..."

I just tried (and failed) to read this for the fourth time in 3 days.

It's not as bad as her other stuff, but it still seems very stream-of-consciousness to me.


message 22: by Pink (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments At least you tried!


message 23: by Carlo (last edited Jan 03, 2018 11:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Carlo | 206 comments I liked this book but it's not difficult to detect a undercurrent of snobbery and arrogance when reading VW.

Was she advocating the liberation of all women or just upper middle class women? She seemed to expect others to take care of life's mundane tasks in order to provide their intellectual betters with the freedom and space to get on with the much more important job of creating art.

She didn't seem to dwell much on how the opportunities of education for all women can nurture talent that might not otherwise see the light of day.


Rosemarie | 1556 comments Valid point, Carlo. She may not have done so intentionally, but it does appear that she is not talking about all women.


Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 126 comments I finished A Room of One's Own yesterday...
What a book! What a clever woman Virginia Woolf !

Carlo, Virginia had only the fault of her time: to believe that with education, freedom to think and act, and money, everyone can reach a high intellectual level.
But I forgive her: she plains that women, until then, where poor and not educated, and shes had no detachment on the history which we have now.
A woman, beholding to no man, independent, educated, intelligent, and forceful, seems to be, perhaps, an ideal to achieve, but ... most of women, today, still have to raise their children, because they love them and not just because their men leave their education to them. Most of women, today, have a job that makes them independent, yes, but at which price? and this work is far from always being gratifying. Some women of this 21st century would like to be able, throughout their life, to educate themselves more each day, but does their life give them time?

Emile de Girardin (French, journalist, owner of newspapers, politician 1806-188... I don't remember!), one of the first feminist men, who wanted women to vote and to be part of the politic decisions equal as men, wrote, in a letter to Alexandre Dumas, nearly this: “To pretend that working will free women is a mistake; a paid work will be, for the common of the women, a task in addition to all those that already incumbent on them: husband, children, family, home. And while they are at work, who will educate their children? It will be a long time before the tasks sharing is effective, real.”
Emile de Girardin wrote this in the 19th, but it’s still a reality for most of the women around the world: I am personally the example of this 21st century woman who has to work for a living and must take care of everything from the household to the psychological well-being of each member of her family. Where can one find the time, after all that, to educate oneself, to brandish a sword or a pen for a just, noble or beautiful cause?

But I don't forget that A Room on One's Own isn't a novel, it's an essay based upon two papers read to the Arts Society at Newnharn and the Odtaa at Girton in October 1928. Virginia Woolf wanted to defend the cause of women who largely needed it! Never, before the 19th century, in history and in the world, women had raised their voices. So, perhaps she went to far, perhaps she summarized her subject so as not to bore an audience that was to be largely masculine? I don't know...

Nevermind, I liked this book so much that I wrote a too big review! https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 126 comments Rosemarie wrote: "Valid point, Carlo. She may not have done so intentionally, but it does appear that she is not talking about all women."

I agree, Rosemarie.


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2052 comments Rosemarie wrote: "Valid point, Carlo. She may not have done so intentionally, but it does appear that she is not talking about all women."

I think during those times generally people(writers included) ignored other people from other classes(esp from merchant or lower;a looking down or maybe an ignorance or an inability to see them)


message 28: by Carlo (last edited Jan 04, 2018 01:33AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Carlo | 206 comments Another point which stayed with me from this book was when she said that "life experiences" are needed to create art, which I completely agree with. She mentioned Tolstoy as an example.

I don't think these "life experiences" necessarily need to involve globetrotting and exotic adventures (although that of course would provide interesting material). Everyone has life experiences of some sort, even if it is being stuck in a dead end job or having a difficult upbringing. There is much to learn and understand about human nature and life from people's different perspectives.

eg. This year the group has read books by Hemingway and Maya Angelou, two authors with very different backgrounds and life experiences but both able to produce profound works of literature.


Francisca | 368 comments I’m about three-fourths of the way through and am enjoying it a lot more than expected. I actually even like the stream of consciousness style - it makes the essay feel more like a conversation, that weaves and takes detours and then circles back. I’m still musing how I feel about her actual argument; sometimes I think I agree with her completely and other times I’m not quite sure...


Francisca | 368 comments Carlo, that’s an interesting comment about her “snobbery”. I agree with others who said that it’s a problem of the classism of the time - I remember feeling something similar when reading Wollenstonecraft (who is ~120 years earlier), that she was only talking to women of the aristocratic class and not so much the ordinary woman in the field or shop.

Your point about life experiences made me think a bit that part of the problem is that she gets caught in the very trap she’s declaiming against. After all, as she herself points out, Austen’s limites life experiences made her a keen observer of character and gave us some great novels that, whatever else you think of them, do not suffer for the fact that the author never fought in a war or traveled the world. Write what you know, goes the old adage — do you get stuck on the limits or do you work with them and through that surpass them seems to be the more essential point. I find her point about the open hostility to women writing (vs indifference) more compelling than simply the “limitations” of women’s life experiences for most of history.


Maartje Volder | 38 comments I read the book but soon found myself tired. It is good to know the past, but with this book it felt like dwelling on it. Because I was personally put off, I feel that I could not enjoy the book for what it is worth. I can see that others can really like it for its style and information, but it was not my cup of tea.


message 32: by siriusedward (last edited Jan 04, 2018 07:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2052 comments I think, Melanti..you may enjoy it if you skip the first chapter.....I foud the first chapter a slog and too much whining about money..and could not make out where she was going with it.... but the second chapter onwards it is not only funny..with examples and sarcasm..but there are good questions we can think about..some of it is relevant even now,I think....


Rosemarie | 1556 comments There is a modern author, Rita Mae Brown, who was involved with the feminist movement in the 1960s. She is from the south and said she often felt excluded from the feminist groups because she wasn't "Ivy League", and that the movement focussed on middle class women. They also had no idea how the working poor women lived.


Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 126 comments siriusedward wrote: "I think, Melanti..you may enjoy it if you skip the first chapter.....I foud the first chapter a slog and too much whining about money..and could not make out where she was going with it.... but the..."

Virginia mention that English women were allowed to vote in 1918, but only when they were 30 years old, while men could vote when they turned 21 at the age of majority. But finally, it was already a progress. In France, women have benn alowed to vote only in the year 1949! Can you believe this?
When I was 17, I lived for one year at my grand-parents'.
My grand-mother was born in 1918. When she got married, before WWII, she went from her father's home to her husband's home, she wasn't allowed to vote, she wasn't allowed to have her own money.
She told me that she was very sorry that she didn't had the time to live alone, to have "a room on her own", to make her own experiences. She envied her little-daughters a lot for that.
Ten years after she got married, she already had had two children, she was allowed to vote. Which maybe explain why she was so interested in politic, subject which bores me!

These things may seem dated, but for my grand-mother, for Virginia, for all these women and still a lot of women around the world, being recognized as full citizens was not the end of their way of living and thinking. Let me explain:
A human being cannot get rid of overnight, all his education, the influence of his parents, of his husband, of society. When my grandmother used her husband to be the head of the family, when she got used to being controlled by him, when she ahd raised her children, a girl and a boy, in this system of thought, it is too late to radically change one's life at thirty years old... unless you're a super woman.
So, yes, money was important. because if my grand-mother would have want to leave her husband, she should have fight to survive, to keep her children, but with wich money? And I don't blame her for not having been a super woman, there are not a lot per century!
So she remain married to my grand-father who was a tyran, a man of his time.

And, that's why I gave 5 stars to A Room on One's Own, because, even if I don"t agree with everything Virginia says, and maybe she said too much because women were allowed to say so few, girls and young women, nowadays, must know how women's life was, and still is in a lot of country.


message 35: by siriusedward (last edited Jan 04, 2018 09:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2052 comments You are right, Gabrielle. .though some may seem like exaggeration now..at that point of time ,even if she was exaggerating , it might have been necessary...the exaggeration, I mean...
And yeah, the importance of money and the right to own things may not really strike us now..as we take them for granted. ...


message 36: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3176 comments siriusedward wrote: "I think, Melanti..you may enjoy it if you skip the first chapter.....I foud the first chapter a slog and too much whining about money..and could not make out where she was going with it.... but the..."

A agree! I almost returned it to the library after that first chapter. I wrote about that in my review. I also am not happy with the forward. I think it predisposed us all to read this as elitist piece and I did for awhile, but then caught myself.

She talked a lot of how being poor was a hindrance. Solving the plight of the poor however is not an easy fix and could not be dealt with in a 114 page essay. The plight of women, in a families with means, is a much easier one to solve.

If we waited to to solve every easily fixable problem before we solved the harder ones, no problems big or small would ever be solved.

Like Gabrielle and Francisca said, I didn't agree with everything she said but it was all good food for thought.


Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 126 comments Sue wrote: "siriusedward wrote: "I think, Melanti..you may enjoy it if you skip the first chapter.....I foud the first chapter a slog and too much whining about money..and could not make out where she was goin..."

I think that, when Virginia says that women were poor, she didn't talk about a real poverty, not only; but about the fact that women couldn't own money, even if their fathers had some, even if their husbands had some. This poverty of women that Virginia is talking about is not a poverty due to a social class or another, but it is due to the lack of right for women to own some money.
Sometimes, it's also an intellectual poverty due to their lack of access to knowledge.


La Petite Princesse :-) (lapetiteprincesse-) | 21 comments Guys are we supposed to talk about this book here?
I mean when we are in the process of reading or when we're finished reading it?
Long story short... how does this thing work?
I'm totally confused :(


Rosemarie | 1556 comments This is the right place to talk about the book, whether you have finished it or not.


La Petite Princesse :-) (lapetiteprincesse-) | 21 comments Rosemarie wrote: "This is the right place to talk about the book, whether you have finished it or not."

Thanks for answering :)
I was just worried about spoiling the book


message 41: by Melanti (new) - added it

Melanti | 2384 comments La Petite Princesse :-) wrote: "Guys are we supposed to talk about this book here?
I mean when we are in the process of reading or when we're finished reading it?
Long story short... how does this thing work?
I'm totally confus..."


The short story category always has one thread, and it's for any type of comment - pre-reading, during, post, etc. You can post about anything you like.



siriusedward wrote: "I think, Melanti..you may enjoy it if you skip the first chapter.....I foud the first chapter a slog and too much whining about money..and could not make out where she was going with it.... but the..."
Well, maybe. But this makes the fourth book by Woolf I've failed to get past the first chapter on, and now you're telling me to give her a fifth try. I'm not sure I have that much patience!

Really, I'd rather just eavesdrop on you guys talk about her work & absorb her ideas that way.


message 42: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3176 comments Gabrielle wrote: "Sue wrote: "siriusedward wrote: "I think, Melanti..you may enjoy it if you skip the first chapter.....I foud the first chapter a slog and too much whining about money..and could not make out where ..."

She was allowed to own money when it was left to her by her aunt. Women were allowed to own money through inheritance and by working. I agree that she viewed all women as too poor to reach their full writing potential in a way that some men could. She thought the money should flow more equally to the women of the family.

I do think she saw class as a problem. There was a good section about how all but one of the best poets were either wealthy or highly educated (which required wealth). She talked about class in some other sections too.


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2052 comments After completing the book, I didn't really feel her to be that much of a snob..she does cover everyone from a Lady to a person who washes clothes to earn money when she talks about writing and being poor and working hard.
And the way she gave examples of writers and the anger with Professor X all was relatable also educational in an entertaining way.She may have made a good teacher,I think.At least I would have liked her .
And I understand now what she means by money being necessary for intellectual freedom...maybe a freedom from worry about making ends meet and also a lack of dependance on another person esp. Men (less pandering to them)... she did illustrate that it was bot just her opinion but others too..and to an extent it may be right....
And by space and time for herself ,I don't think she meant for all the time ..no just some time for her to be able to sit down and think or write without any worry or constant interruption. .... don't we all try to spueeze some "me time" ... for reading or other things , in spite of our hectic schedules and demands on our time and attention?
She does not say that women need to stop having children or hate men to be able to write.
Just that she needs to educate herself,earn some money,gain some independence ,and develop some interwst beyond her family life..and also to live fully and be true to herself. .and not be bitter...


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2052 comments Hmm..I guess it is obvious that I loved her book...


Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 126 comments siriusedward wrote: "After completing the book, I didn't really feel her to be that much of a snob..she does cover everyone from a Lady to a person who washes clothes to earn money when she talks about writing and bein..."

I totally agree with you!
Here's an excerpt, I think, you must have liked:

"For women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics. But this creative power differs greatly from the creative power of men. And one must conclude that it would be a thousand pities if it were hindered or wasted, for it was won by centuries of the most drastic discipline, and there is nothing to take its place. It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities?"


message 46: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Michel Rosemarie wrote: "Valid point, Carlo. She may not have done so intentionally, but it does appear that she is not talking about all women."
Gabrielle, I agree with you 100 % and I think you make an incredibly valid point. In the early days of feminism, many socialists were of the opinion that "liberating" women meant having their children brought up by the government (state creches, pre-schools, etc). I have always thought this an extremely bad idea. In the same way, homeschooling your children (if you don't totally agree with the national curriculum) is legal in the USA and is apparently on the rise, as the quality of education has dropped dramatically. Here in Europe, as a mother (or a parent) you have absolutely NO say in what is being taught to your children. Even if you have the time and level of education to home school your offspring, It's illegal. Why ? I for one, do not think the state should take away the role of the parent. It's for the parent to teach their children morals and values, not a government subject to various political changes and political fads.
I find it too uncomfortably close to brainwashing for my liking.


Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 126 comments Sabrina wrote: "Rosemarie wrote: "Valid point, Carlo. She may not have done so intentionally, but it does appear that she is not talking about all women."
Gabrielle, I agree with you 100 % and I think you make an ..."


And you cannot even imagine how far it goes in France! I have been to public school myself and my two children too, my daughter is still in high school in the last year. Most of the teachers, without being embarrassed in the least, teach their political ideas in all their courses: French, philosophy, history, English or German!
That's how I had to teach my children to lie, to hide what they thought, to be in agreement with the teachers and to have good grades!
It's sad...


message 48: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Michel Yes Gabrielle, it's sad and at the same time it's frightening. I used to regret not having children. Now, when I see what's happening around me, I'm rather relieved. I just don't understand why people don't complain about such things, when the future of their kids is in the balance. People have become so apathetic, it's sickening. I don't mean to rant, but in my opinion, nothing is worse than teaching innocent children lies and political fantasies to serve a political ideology which doesn't even have their best interests at heart and only wants to keep them dumb so they can control them better. Goodbye free speech and free thought. There were many things wrong with the 19th century, but at least this wasn't one of them. Children who could go to school became smarter , not dumber.


Kathleen | 3798 comments Jehona wrote: "I liked it very much. This should be read by everyone. It is still true and it is true for other intellectual pursuits as well as writing."

I will be starting a re-read (after many years) of this today, but I already agree with your comment, Jehona. As someone who has been trying to write fiction for decades while working a job or two, I agree it is still quite a challenge.

I think part of the "snobbery" vibe people are getting is the times, as Francisca said, but also may be that it started as a women's college lecture. She wasn't necessarily speaking to all women or all people, as a speaker might be today, when we know a successful essay or talk will be widely broadcast.

I think reading it with that in mind, and comparing it to college lectures of the time (talk about snobbery!), this is definitely more inclusive.


Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 126 comments Kathleen wrote: "Jehona wrote: "I liked it very much. This should be read by everyone. It is still true and it is true for other intellectual pursuits as well as writing."

I will be starting a re-read (after many ..."


You're right, Kathleen.


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