By Radclyffe Hall

Like most of the books I have read, this book came to my attention through a former colleague of mine-by coincidence????!!!!I’d just gone to her house to select a book I could borrow and there it was….She explained how hard it had been to find it and I promised to keep it safe. It is the kind of book that -when you first see it, you wonder whether you will actually ever finish reading it. 

The catchline on the cover reads ‘The bible of lesbianism’. This works both as an advantage and a disadvantage. As a disadvantage because you’d think that this is a book that is intended for lesbians or potential lesbians and teaches the rules of lesbianism. Not at all!!! Infact, its quite the opposite. It’s a story on being misunderstood.An advantage because one becomes curios to know what lesbianism is all about. 

The Well of Loneliness is a story about Stephen Gordon, a girl who grows up as an only child in England. Given a boys name by her well-educated father, Stephen grew up as what people call a ‘tom boy’. She finds herself in a situation that she believes is a genetic disposition to lesbianism. Unfortunately, she only seems to fall in love with heterosexual women.

 Throughout her life, she is referred to as ‘inverted’ or ‘abnormal’. She becomes a famous author and even serves as a driver during the World War. The story climaxes when Stephen –the ‘archetypal masculine lesbian’ has to rescue her lover-the ‘pseudo’  lesbian or what we’d call ‘the bicurious woman’ Mary Llewellyn from the fate of being a homosexual. Stephen pretends she doesn’t love Mary anymore so she could let her (Mary) get married to a man.

The book is set in the early 20th Century; a time when lesbianism was not even legal. People who have reviewed this book believe that it is a book that is better not read by lesbians. I’d say that this is because the book doesn’t really have a happily-ever-after-ending for the heroine Stephen and portrays lesbianism as a situation where one is unhappy and never really accepted by society. The piece is pretty emotional and one can easily get lost and engrossed in the pain and time period.Hall is a great writer and I really enjoyed reading this heart-moving classical book.

 What you ought to know 

The Well of Loneliness was first published in England in 1928 but because of its ‘perceived’ ‘lesbian content’ (which is not true ; the book doesn’t even have any pornographic or sexually explicit content) was banned under the obscenity law and wasn’t sold in UK for decades. It was published in USA and was even sold in France before it was later distributed in UK. 


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