Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

"There comes a time in all passionate attachments when life, real life, must be faced once again with its varied and endless obligations, when the lover know in his innermost heart that the halcyon days are over."

This particular novel had been in my to read pile for a long time. I'd been a little bit put off by the blurb and the idea that perhaps I wouldn't engage with a lesbian love story. That was a really short sighted view. I think anyone who has ever felt like an outsider in any way can find something that resonates here. Stephen's journey is one of pain, exclusion, momentary joy,guilt and betrayal. This is a book chock full of emotions and I was hooked.

Perhaps what struck a chord with me particularly was the idea of femininity that Stephen challenges. Her father expecting her to be born a boy, perseveres with the name and brings up his child with an equality of experience that is to be applauded and yet is too progressive for the times. Social expectations are a constant challenge to Stephen, eager to please her parents , her inability to conform is  the source of a never-ending, losing battle.

With a milestone birthday approaching and the constant sense of disappointment voiced by my mother that I haven't bred her dreamt of grandchildren, I could really identify with that sense that you can't, in good conscience to yourself, grant your love ones their desired outcomes.

It would be great today, to look back at this, at times, gut wrenching work of fiction and laugh at how much things had progressed  While there have been many improvements in the world of 2016, it is sad to think that many still suffer as Stephen did. Hiding her relationship with Mary, and being treated like a leper by her family. Stephen's pain at not being able to marry Mary and provide for her future is sadly a struggle that many people still face in Australia today.

This review is most probably a little more heartfelt than usual and undoubtedly stems from the fact that as I get older and the news gets more horrific and 24-7,  it is my continuing wish that sanity could prevail in the world. That there would never be a question as to equal pay for women and equal representation on boards and in government. Likewise, that wherever your heart lies, you have the ability to provide for your loved ones, no matter if both of you wear a dress or a tux  at a wedding. 

Something about the ending of the novel - SPOILERS- just irritated me, I wanted Stephen to transgress society's norms and thrive. I wanted the crazy passion between Stephen and Mary to quell to something manageable and comforting. I did not like the ending. It felt like one of those code era American film endings where if you do something outside the norm you will be punished. The self-sacrificing lie is just gut-wrenching. Never has a title so eloquently enunciated the finale!

5 out of 5 why do good things have to end?

No comments:

Post a Comment