Title: The Well of Loneliness
Author: Radclyffe Hall
Narrator: Cecilia Fage
Publication Year: 1928
Pages: 441 (audio length: 16 hours 15 minutes)
Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com
From the cover:
Stephen Gordon (named by a father desperate for a son) is not like other girls: she hunts, she fences, she reads books, wears trousers, and longs to cut her hair. As she grows up amidst the stifling grandeur of Morton Hall, the locals begin to draw away from her, aware of some indefinable thing that sets her apart. And when Stephen Gordon reaches maturity, she falls passionately in love – with another woman.
I don’t really know how to start this review except this: Ugh.
For all that this is supposed to be a classic of lesbian literature, it made me want to fall asleep. I was usually listening to it as I drove to or from work, so this was a dangerous act of reading. It just bored me so much. Nothing happened! Or, rather, almost nothing happened, and when finally something did happen, it usually pissed me off.
Not to mention that, despite Hall’s continuous references to Stephen as being an “invert” (aka an old term for “gay/lesbian”), Stephen’s character really comes across more as a transperson, as a man stuck in a woman’s body. But I suppose that’s really not up to me to decide.
Anywho … I sadly don’t have much nice to say about this book, despite the ridiculous number of hours that I spent reading it. Sure, it’s probably a good thing that it got published back in its day, even though it was censored/banned on and off for years, just because it gave some publicity to queer people. But aside from that, it really has no overarching literary merit. The characters are flat, boring, and unlikeable, there isn’t much plot to speak of, there’s way too much internal dialogue and longing, and the ending – and the conclusions drawn – just made me angry. (The only vaguely non-irritating part was the narrator; her voice was gentle and conducive to listening to an audiobook for hours on end … just not this audiobook.)
So. Much. Time. Wasted.
Please allow me to save you from doing the same. The Well of Loneliness will just make you long for a world without this book in it.