The Odd Woman was Godwin’s third novel, following The Perfectionists (1970) and Glass People (1972). It has nearly twice the length and complexity of either of her earlier books and is generally regarded as an important book in her development as a novelist.
Concerned in her first two novels with the possibilities of self-definition for modern women, Godwin gives the question historical and literary context in The Odd Woman. Using George Gissing’s 1893 novel as a counterpoint to her own story, Godwin draws her readers into Jane Clifford’s contemporary struggle for resolution, giving that struggle larger and more profound implications about the relationship between the life of the mind and the outer life than are to be found in either of her previous novels. Focusing primarily on character rather than action, her work since The Odd Woman has continued to explore the intersection between art and life and the haunting presence of the past in everyday life.