THE ODD WOMAN by Gail Godwin
Kirkus Star


A Novel
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After all these assertive maidens and housewives, Gail Godwin's The Odd Woman--her major work to date--is very different--just like Jane Clifford, a plain Jane, unfashionable, odd--both single and singular. She has none of the stylish assurance or self-sufficiency of all but one of the people she knows. She's even--God forbid--a romantic, looking for "her best life" while wondering whether one can even have a good one if unattached. With mostly literature to go by (she teaches the English novel in a midwestern college) she would like to find, as George Eliot did, that "Being happy in each other we find everything easy." Thus we come around to the point, or rather go back to it, questioning whether emancipation/enlightenment assures freedom, let alone peace of mind. During the few days here Jane's experiences seem to demand reassessment and a parti pris. She goes home to her grandmother's funeral and picks up pieces of the past: her grandmother, an elegant woman, was never more complete than after she was widowed; her mother has escaped a second impulsive marriage to a rigid, common man via God and the church. While Jane herself leaves for New York to meet Gabriel--her sometime lover, courtesy of the MLA, of two years ("fourteen furtive fucks" as her viciously amusing and defoliating femme-libbing friend Gerda says). Gabriel is not only married but reticent, pedantic and even frugal. There are marvelous scenes whether fantasized or actual and particularized: Jane in Saks trying to buy a dress and leaving it behind in a taxi; or going to see the lonely old man who might have been the ruin of a great-aunt--returned in a coffin. And in the end Jane goes back to school--the anachronism, the odd woman out. May she yet find that best life--perhaps there's no such thing. In lieu of it, settle for a fine book without any of that insular modish sophistication. Gail Godwin achieves a collaboration of the mind and the heart in a novel of experience which can enlarge our own via one of the most appealing young women of many seasons.
Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1974
ISBN: 0345389913
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1974


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