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A Room of One's Own

Reviewed by National Trustee Penny Ryan.

Addressing the dominance of men in the literary world, Virginia’s slim volume is considered a feminist classic.

This book is not a novel. Instead, it is drawn from two lectures given by Virginia at women’s colleges in Cambridge on the theme ‘Women and Fiction’. It seems to be an awakening by Virginia o the injustices still faced by women in 1928 (when it was written). At the beginning she seems startled to discover the paucity of facilities and food at the women’s colleges compared to those for men, and realises that this is due to a lack of investment in women’s lives. Virginia had not attended a university and had been entirely home educated. The book then looks at the depiction of both women in fiction and as writers of fiction, and the lack of them! Along the way she reaches the conclusion that to be able to write, a woman needs private space (the room of one’s own) and a private income. The book is not an easy read, but the ideas still have relevance. What surprised me most was that Virginia seemed not to have systematically questioned the absence of women in history and literature before preparing her lectures – each chapter includes new revelations as if they had just occurred to her.

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