The NYRB Holiday Sale is on! Spend $75 or more to receive a free tote bag! (Offer not available for any Book Club orders.)

Additional Book Information

Series: New York Review Books
Pages: 296
Publication Date: August 15, 2005

Alone! Alone!Lives of Some Outsider Women

by Rosemary Dinnage

$11.96 $14.95


In the course of over thirty years of writing about psychology, child development, biography, and fiction, Rosemary Dinnage has encountered a variety of outstanding women, all of whom, in one way or another, felt powerfully alone.

Here she brings together her reflections on some of the most memorable of them, including solitaries like the painter Gwen John and the philosopher Simone Weil; muses to partners of genius like Clementine Churchill and Giuseppina Verdi; unstoppable characters like the birth-control advocate Marie Stopes and the children's novelist Enid Blyton; literary survivors like Isak Dinesen and Rebecca West; and, along the way, an assortment of aristocrats, lawbreakers, manic-depressives, transvestites, and storytellers.

Some of these women knew isolation through their dedication to duty, and others through their immersion in writing, painting, or politics. Some juggled with fantasy worlds in which they could end up stranded. Others learned the fine art of survival, fighting illness, hard childhoods, or a hostile public. All of them, whether trying to construct a life or a work of art—or both—suggest ways in which women can choose, learn, laugh, invent, dare, and of course wholeheartedly love or hate.

These women make up a remarkable gallery of the famous, the infamous, the once famous, and the never famous. In telling their stories, Rosemary Dinnage considers what aloneness may really be, how it begins, how it feels, and, above all, how this crucial experience can teach and illuminate as well as Rosemary Dinnage


Alone! Alone! is a luminous collection of meditations on women who bore, or refused to bear, with the cards life dealt them. Rosemary Dinnage's great strengths include her keen psychological insight and her refusal to think inside the feminist box, and she has a unique ability to analyze and speculate about the conflicts of a personality without stooping to easy conclusions. Her essays on the strength that informed the wifely pliancy of Clementine Churchill and the vulnerability that lay behind the adamantine will of Simone Weil are alone worth the price of admission.
— Daphne Merkin

The introduction to Alone! Alone! is very good. It's modest and candid, and everything Rosemary Dinnage says about book-reviewing is spot on.
The Spectator (London)

The standout pieces are not about shadows and almosts, however, but about women who used aloneness as a lab: painter Gwen John, poet Stevie Smith, philosopher Simone Weil, Isak Dinesen, Rebecca West and Katherine Mansfield.
Los Angeles Times

Alone! Alone! becomes a study of thought, art and knowledge in the twentieth century.
Times Literary Supplement

...[M]y discovery of the year. Dinnage is an author whose charm and intelligence speak from the page.
—Colin Wilson, The Independent, "Books of the Year"