I took this book out of the library just over a month ago, in the hope of finding a few useful bits and bobs for an coursework essay on women in Victorian literature. Last year, I became vaguely aware that Gilbert and Gubar must be pretty influential, since so many other critics seemed to be referring to them, but I don't think any amount of recommendation could have prepared me to be quite so blown away.
This book went so far above and beyond my expectations that I'd bought my own copy and taken the library book back within a week. I pretty well devoured it, and had to make myself stop reading so that I didn't neglect writing the essay for which I'd obtained it.
It's a rare and magical thing when you discover a critic who not only writes a fascinating and compelling argument, but actually makes it readable and accessible. As to the reviewers who found it verbose and poorly written, Lord help you if you have to wade through anything of the usual density of pretentious academics. I often find reading critical material a pretty depressing experience for that reason, but Gilbert and Gubar managed somehow to make it all seem incredibly exciting.
Five stars also for sheer comprehensiveness - something on this scale must have taken a phenomenal amount of work. The book might present itself as an examination of nineteenth-century literature exclusively, but it definitely goes way beyond that, analysing the mythology that has been defining women in Western culture for centuries. I can, as a result, see myself returning to this again and again, both for university essays, and for my own personal benefit.
An absolute must-read for anyone remotely interested in feminist theory and/or the social functions of the myths and images that recur time and again in English literature.