It’s funny, I have read pieces of A Room of One’s Own more than once in college. Only one line ever left me feeling overly moved. Reading it in its entirety is how it should be read. This time I was moved, changed and challenged. If you have read many of my reviews, my feminist lean shouldn’t surprise you, but this book reached out a shook me. I found my feminist heart in complete agreement with much of what Woolf said. I couldn’t help but feel connected with the lineage of women before me.
The line that shakes me every time happens towards the end of the speech. Woolf is speaking to this audience of women and she unites the women in this idea of Shakespeare having a sister who was never able to write. Woolf says, “She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed.” This line is powerfully uniting to me and I see it in my own life and in the lives of others, the difficulty of being all things. The individual, the intellectual, the wife, the mother, the housekeeper, the worker, the thinker, the creator, the boo-boo kisser, the cook, etc., etc. Woolf carefully and skillfully unites us.
I have heard this book described as ‘man-bashing’ or any of the other various terms used to try to discredit feminism. I can’t find that attitude in the writing, I wonder if the reader has brought that to the writing instead of finding it there. Instead, I see Woolf argue that great writers become “man-womanly” and “woman-manly”, not thinking of their sex as they write, using an androgynous brain. She makes the argument that writing requires the material ability and space for free thought and contemplation. This book is a feminist “must-read” but I think anyone interested in writing should also take the time to absorb this brief piece.
It was, at least as a feminist reader, strong enough to require strong tea. I chose English Breakfast tea which felt right for a book in England and the caffeine allowed for a little more brain processing power. Room for contemplation is difficult for me to find and I wish I had that space to digest this book a little further.