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Virginia and Alice Madden are 'odd women', growing old alone in Victorian England with prospect of finding love. Forced into poverty by the sudden death of their father, they lead lives of quiet desperation in a genteel boarding house in London. Meanwhile, their younger sister Monica, struggles to endure a loveless marriage she agreed to as her only escape from spinsterhood. But when the Maddens meet an old friend, Rhoda Nunn, they are soon made aware of the depth of their oppression. Astonishingly ahead of its time, The Odd Women is a pioneering work of early feminism. Gissing's depiction of the daring feminist Rhoda Nunn, it is an unflinching portrayal of one woman's struggle to reconcile her own desires with her deepest principles.
Elaine Showalter is the author of the groundbreaking A Literature of Their Own and editor of Little Women for Penguin Classics.