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Wifedom: Mrs Orwell's Invisible Life

de Anna Funder

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2235121,724 (4.01)32
"A riveting work about the woman who sacrificed her future for one of the most famous writers of the twentieth century and a probing look at what it means to be a wife and a writer in the modern world. Looking for wonder and some reprieve from the everyday, award-winning writer Anna Funder slips into the pages of her hero George Orwell. As she watches him create his writing self, she tries to remember her own. When she uncovers his forgotten wife, it's a revelation. Eileen O'Shaughnessy's literary brilliance shaped Orwell's work and her practical common sense saved his life. But why-and how-was she written out of the story? Using newly discovered letters from Eileen to her best friend, Funder recreates the Orwells' marriage, through the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War in London. As she rolls up the screen concealing Orwell's private life she is led to question what it takes to be a writer-and what it is to be a wife. Genre-bending and utterly original, Wifedom is an ode to the unsung work of women everywhere today, while offering a breathtakingly intimate view of one of the most important literary marriages of the twentieth century. It is a book that speaks to our present moment as much as it illuminates the past"--… (mais)
Adicionado recentemente porBex_1979, ajmarks, vff, Coolgarra, brenzi, SamQTrust, heycart, biblioteca privada, sonya_sherman, KeithGold
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Exibindo 5 de 5
Wifedom is a biographical work by Australian author Anna Funder, recreating the story of Eileen O’Shaughnessy, the wife of George Orwell. This is blended with anecdotes from her own life, some fictional scenes, and some commentary or speculation on the motivations involved in the couple’s life.

Eileen was married to George from 1936 until her death in 1945, and this incorporates time spent in the Spanish War and also in London during the Blitz. Her story is largely recreated from a handful of letters more recently discovered, and from examining and commentating on previous biographies.

The main point is that, despite Eileen being an Oxford graduate, a writer, an intelligent and capable woman who made a significant contribution to both Orwell’s life and work, she is largely erased by history and Orwell himself. There is the classic inequity in household chores, and her aspirations are put on hold to support his. There is also the irony that, despite Orwell being very aware of power inequities in a general sense, he seems oblivious to the abuse of power in his treatment of women, even when he is non-consensually jumping on women or buying girls for a few coins.

Funder makes some important points, but I found this became very repetitive early on. I also dislike having things interpreted for me, I prefer as a reader to draw my own conclusions. I found the shift between Eileen’s life, Funder’s opinions, and her own life anecdotes somewhat jarring. This conscious, very present narrator style distracts from the reader’s ability to become immersed in the story. Lastly, in a story purporting to recreate an invisible woman’s life, it was irony of ironies that the audiobook continued on for another two hours after her death. In other words her story is yet again railroaded and taken over by a man’s! ( )
  mimbza | Apr 9, 2024 |
Not as riveting as I’d expected it to be, given I’d really enjoyed Funder’s previous books and I’d read many reviews.
My chief gripe: too many suppositions for a work claiming to be non fiction. The author’s outrage with Orwell was clear (and often warranted) but viewing Orwell and Eileen’s relationship through 21st century eyes doesn’t cut it for me. I’m not defending Orwell at all (he appears to be extremely self-centred, thoughtless and chauvinistic) but I just felt too many judgements were made about what Eileen “must have” thought about various incidents.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have this credibility problem were the book to be marketed as a work of fiction. ( )
1 vote Mercef | Mar 30, 2024 |
Very, very interesting and thought provoking. ( )
  littlel | Jan 6, 2024 |
This has every chance of being my book of the year, though I was also very much impressed by Caro's first volume of his biography of US President Lyndon Johnson (if only because I previously had no particular interest in US Presidents).

Funder is not a prolific author of books (I believe this is her 4th), though apparently a somewhat more prolific contributor to various magazines, journals etc. I cannot remember reading her before but I am very glad I red this after having heard her speaking as to it earlier in the year.

The book takes a non traditional structure: it is part personal (ie Funder) reflection/memoir as to her life; a description a sto how she went about writing this book; a (partial ) biography of Orwell and his first wife Eileen; an assessment as to the inputs as to Orwell's literary output; an assessment as to patriarchy, both in the first half of the 20th century and now.

Unlike some other works (eg Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals", where he flays the perceived (and based on his views probably actual) flaws of his targets, they are very diminished people after his depiction), Funder does not set out 'to get Orwell' but rather starts in a low period in her life, when she come across a collected works of Orwell, someone already admired by Funder. Having read those, Funder then reads the then available six modern biographies of Orwell. But it is the subsequent publication of some six letters between Eileen and her best friend that intrigues Funder the most.

The first letter (from Eileen,written some weeks after her marriage to Orwell), now famously, states :

"I lost my habit of punctual correspondence during the first few weeks of marriage because we quarrelled so continuously & bitterley that I thought I'd save time & just write one letter to everyone when the murder or separation had been accomplished."

Funder turned back to the biographies to find out more about Eileen, but found very little mention of her. And this set Funder off on a search for Eileen. What she found was fascinating, A woman who gave up some much in some many ways for Orwell, seemingly willingly (even to the deficit of her own health), but in circumstances where Orwell gave so little back. Indeed it could be said that Orwell's writing was better (even so much better) given Eileen's multiple contributions to Orwell's life, day to day existence and literary output (indeed the also the quality of that output).

This is not a 'pile on', seeking to bring down Orwell, In the way that Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals" is a study as to how various well know intellectuals (including Rousseau, Marx, Baldwin, Mailer Sartre, amongst others) "apply their public principles to their private lives. What is their attitude to money? How do they treat their spouses and children - legitimate and illegitimate? How loyal are they to their friends?"

Funder writes that her appreciation of Orwell's literary output is undiminished, and similarly her respect for the biographers notwithstanding their apparent overlooking of the contributions of Eileen. And I have heard Funder repeat that in various interviews both before and after reading the book.

Apart from reinstating Eileen's position in the realm, drawing on Orwell's insights into tyranny (particularly colonialism) and James Baldwin's insights as to discrimination and on Orwell's notion of doublespeak - the notion of being able to believe or accept at the very same time 2 contradictory facts or beliefs) Funder

"came to see how men can imagine themselves innocent in a system that benefits, at others' cost."

A great thought provoking read.

Big Ship

27 August 2023 ( )
2 vote bigship | Aug 25, 2023 |
A brilliant book about George Orwell's overlooked, usually unnamed wife, Eileen. Despite her admiration for his work, Anna Funder has revealed him as a monster of the patriarchy. Not so much misogynist as utterly neglectful of Eileen's needs, especially of her health. Is he though simply a man of his extremely patriarchal times, or is the extremity of his masculine selfishness at least partly due to the school he attended, Eton? His disregard of women as human beings made me think of Boris Johnson. Their politics could hardly have been more different, but they seemed to have shared a complete inability to see women as people with human needs and demands. Both attended Eton. ( )
  elimatta | Aug 7, 2023 |
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"A riveting work about the woman who sacrificed her future for one of the most famous writers of the twentieth century and a probing look at what it means to be a wife and a writer in the modern world. Looking for wonder and some reprieve from the everyday, award-winning writer Anna Funder slips into the pages of her hero George Orwell. As she watches him create his writing self, she tries to remember her own. When she uncovers his forgotten wife, it's a revelation. Eileen O'Shaughnessy's literary brilliance shaped Orwell's work and her practical common sense saved his life. But why-and how-was she written out of the story? Using newly discovered letters from Eileen to her best friend, Funder recreates the Orwells' marriage, through the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War in London. As she rolls up the screen concealing Orwell's private life she is led to question what it takes to be a writer-and what it is to be a wife. Genre-bending and utterly original, Wifedom is an ode to the unsung work of women everywhere today, while offering a breathtakingly intimate view of one of the most important literary marriages of the twentieth century. It is a book that speaks to our present moment as much as it illuminates the past"--

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