Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life (Paperback)
  • Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life (Paperback)

Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life (Paperback)

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Paperback 464 Pages
Published: 07/03/2024
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Waterstones Says

Casting light on the neglected Eileen O'Shaughnessy and her marriage to George Orwell, this tour de force of biographical writing from the author of Stasiland doubles as a fitting tribute to the unsung work of women everywhere.

Looking for wonder and some reprieve from the everyday, 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 nous 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 WW II 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.

Compelling and utterly original, Wifedom speaks to the unsung work of women everywhere today, while offering a breathtakingly intimate view of one of the most important literary marriages of the 20th century. It is a book that speaks to our present moment as much as it illuminates the past.

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780241482742
Number of pages: 464
Weight: 320 g
Dimensions: 196 x 126 x 34 mm


A marvelous book . . . I just loved it all, and have a permanently marked-up, dog-eared copy on my shelf for the next generation. - Tom Hanks

Simply, a masterpiece. Here, Anna Funder not only re-makes the art of biography, she resurrects a woman in full. - Geraldine Brooks, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Truly wonderful... Anna Funder has written another brilliant human portrait. - Claire Tomalin

Electrifying... Daring in both form and content, Funder's book is a nuanced, sophisticated literary achievement - Kirkus

A strikingly original study that casts Orwell in new light. Deeply perceptive, it is testament to forgotten wives of famous men everywhere. - Julia Boyd

Furious and fascinating - The Times

Astonishing... Wifedom is no less than the rescue of a remarkable woman from the deliberate ellipses of default male history. - Caroline Criado-Perez, bestselling author of INVISIBLE WOMEN

Taylor's updated life will send readers back to Orwell's compelling visions of state power and surveillance with fresh appreciation. Still, it is Funder's evocation of Eileen's fugitive life that haunts this reader's imagination. It is a spellbinding achievement - FT

An utter triumph, and nothing short of a miracle - Anne Summers

Wonderful, unexpected and exciting from beginning to end - Antonia Fraser

Astounding... A profoundly essential, significant and groundbreaking work... a work of love for both Eric and Eileen - Bernadette Brennan

An extraordinary blend of forensic historical detective work and evocative fiction, as well as snatches of memoir. It not only writes O'Shaughnessy back into the story but also questions how far we've really come in terms of gender equality. To read about O'Shaughnessy is to fall in love with her - Radio Times

Reminiscent of Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts or Julian Barnes's The Noise of Time . . . a riveting biography that not only rediscovers Eileen and paints a picture of a volatile period of history but also poses questions about what we value in art. - Books & Publishing

A bravura analysis of female invisibility - New York Times Notable Books of 2023

A brilliant hybrid of biography, memoir and literary detective work, which demonstrates how patriarchy allows men to exploit women's unpaid services. Funder brings Eileen to life through her letters, supported by forensic re-reading of male-authored biographies and Orwell's classics about tyranny and truth. - Sarah Wyndham, Guardian

Full of keen psychological insight and eloquent prose, WIFEDOM shines - Publishers Weekly

Wifedom is both an immovable and an irresistible book, an object and a force . . . another great and important narrative of oppression and covert suppression. - Michael Hofman, Australian Book Review

It's hard to think of many other contemporary writers with such an acute eye for writing into the absences in the historical record. - Michael Williams, Saturday Paper

George Orwell's first wife emerges vividly from Anna Funder's new book . . . welcome and necessary, returning life to a woman who was gifted, vivid, complex and highly intelligent, who gave up her own ambitions in the furtherance of her husband's - Geordie Williamson, Weekend Australian

Funder is the perfect writer to integrate Orwell's legacy. She, too, has devoted her writing life to the subject of surviving tyranny. - The Conversation

'Anna Funder is a premier-league writer who can roll fiction, reportage, criticism and memoir into glinting prose, her sentences like handheld treasures you keep turning over, admiring for their graceful contours and crafted precision' - i Newspaper

Audaciously brilliant - Independent

A genre-bending tour de force... After Funder, we will never look at this writer or his work in the same way again. Nor should we. - Independent

This study of George Orwell’s first wife, Eileen – whom his books never name – is fresh, original and immersive, thanks to the award-winning author of Stasiland. - Daily Telegraph 50 Best Books of the Year

Electrifying... a genre-melding hybrid that allows Eileen's likeness to be partially recovered through her own words and the testimonies of those who remembered her, as well as reimagined in fictional passages to flesh out the gaps in the record... Wifedom is a vital portrait of a woman whose unseen work was instrumental in the creation of books that became cornerstones of 20th century literature, the extent of her contribution impossible to measure, obscured as it is by the role of "wife" - Observer

In this rattlingly fierce book, Anna Funder sets out to unmask the "wicked magic trick" by which Eileen O'Shaughnessy Blair has been made to disappear... readers will be simply thrilled - and shaken - by this passionately partisan act of literary reparation - Sunday Times

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Violet Daniels

“Leaving with more questions than answers”

This book has left me conflicted in so many ways. First of all, Anna Funder has painted a searing portrait of George Orwell that reveals him to be an unpleasant man, often in his personal life contradicting the ideas... More

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