Am höchsten bewertete kritische Rezension
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an important but flawed piece of fiction
am 13. März 2000
i just translated the book into chinese so i guess i did some pretty close reading :). while the novel is undoubtedly a milestone in the history of english literature, lesbian culture, and the battle against censorship, its literary merits leave something to be desired. radclyffe hall's prose is ornate and even over-dramatizing at times, and i find the frequent insertion of french phrases and sentences redundant and affected. the situations and emotions are relevant, poignant, and often depicted with insight, but because the mood and the tone of the narrative is so persistently intensive it does tend to get tedious after a while--which can be well before one finishes the book.
it seems quite obvious that stephen gordon, the heroine (or should i say hero?) of the book, would never have questioned the moral conventions and gender roles of her times, had she not been born to be what she was--in short, a male soul trapped inside a female body (though hall, true to her style, never just says so). for she totally identified herself with a (upper-class) society of so-called respectability, honor, refinement, etc., which constitutes a mentality not really, uh, let's say "progressive". while crying out against the outrage against and persecution of lesbians and gays, stephen remained disconcertingly vague in her attitude toward effeminate males (such as the character jonathan brockett), feeling much more at ease with and indeed seeking the acceptance of straight (and presumably manly) men. i'm not exactly saying that it's "reactionary" to long for the very "secure and happy" life of "the normal", but how she--and i wonder if also the author--repeatedly projected heterosexual marriage to be is way too idealized and dangerously so, not pausing for even one moment to reflect on what outrage and persecution that sort of marriage could also and did often turn out to be for perfectly "normal" women. one can't help feeling that she thought everything would've been just so fine, if only and only if she had been a man!
so, while trying not to be anachronistic in my judgment of the novel and the characters in it, i suggest that it be carefully read *in context*, historically and ideologically.