This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room. A scene in a battle-field is more important than a scene in a shop – everywhere and much more subtly the difference of value persists.
Tucked away at the back of cabinet of curiosities is a small brown, cloth-covered hardback. It has lost its dustjacket and unless you read our little sign you’d have no idea what it was. It is in fact Virginia Woolf’s seminal text on women and their treatment as literary contributors. The general theme is women and fiction but the more overarching theme is, of course, feminism and the subjugation of women. While there is much to criticise in what Woolf writes (notably how often she ascribes ‘essential’ characteristics to men and women) the main thrust of her argument, that women, as a result of their unequal treatment, require their own space in the literary tradition.
With the rise of self-publishing (68% of self-published books are bought by women) and the annual arguments over the legitimacy of The Women’s Prize for Fiction (Orange/Baileys etc.) there is still a place in this world for the theory that women need to find their own space to write. This little book provides more than enough material. It is the third impression of the original Hogarth Press edition (Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s own publishing company) and is therefore beautifully set out on lovely paper. All lover’s of fiction should read this text at least once.