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Virginia Woolf: A Biography

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The first full-scale biography of the eminent British writer, written by her nephew. Index; photographs.


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The first full-scale biography of the eminent British writer, written by her nephew. Index; photographs.

30 review for Virginia Woolf: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Virginia Woolf was the fiercely brainy and extremely posh girl I would have been far too shy to even dream of speaking to, had I been around then. But, in an alternative slipstream of history, it turned out that I was alive at the time, and blow me down, there she was in the Smoke Room at the Old Butcher's Dog in Oxford one lovely spring evening in 1927. Her dress shimmered like an aura of sheer organdie, and just as she was about to tuck into some doves' brains on parsley, I turned to her and sa Virginia Woolf was the fiercely brainy and extremely posh girl I would have been far too shy to even dream of speaking to, had I been around then. But, in an alternative slipstream of history, it turned out that I was alive at the time, and blow me down, there she was in the Smoke Room at the Old Butcher's Dog in Oxford one lovely spring evening in 1927. Her dress shimmered like an aura of sheer organdie, and just as she was about to tuck into some doves' brains on parsley, I turned to her and said "'Ere, Virginia, do you know this one?" A mother was washing her baby one night The youngest of ten and a delicate mite The mother turned round for the soap off the rack She was only a moment - but when she turned back Her baby had gone and in anguish she cried "Oh where has my baby gone?" And the angels replied Oh your baby has gone down the plug-hole Your baby has gone down the plug The poor little thing was so skinny and thin He should have been washed in a jug Your baby is perfectly happy He won't need a bath anymore He's a-mucking about with the angels above Not lost but gone before And when I opened my eyes (the last note having been projected forth with brio, you see) alas she was no longer there, and the doves brains lay congealing untouched on the now cold toast. When all's said and done, she was a bit snooty.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marko

    It's quite amazing. Seriously, it's even better than I thought it was gonna be. I am really grateful that he was the one who wrote her biography, cause he is a skilled writer and a family member who could not be accused of engorging or minimizing her flaws and virtues.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Outdated. If you want the most up to date Biography of Virginia Woolf, check out the one by Hermione Lee. There are certain sections of this biography that really angered me. At one point Bell states that Woolf's claim that she was sexually abused as a child is either false or exaggerated. There really is no reason I can think of to believe that, especially when she has described the encounters herself in her own autobiographical writing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I was expecting this book to be kind of dry, and slow going, but was pleasantly surprised at how exciting, readable and just plain fun it was most of the time! (Other times it could be very sad, but it was never boring). What did I learn from this book? Where to start?! Probably the most surprising (and also the funniest) thing I found out in this book was that, as a young woman, Virginia participated in something called the "Dreadnought hoax," which involved a group of people (her, her brother a I was expecting this book to be kind of dry, and slow going, but was pleasantly surprised at how exciting, readable and just plain fun it was most of the time! (Other times it could be very sad, but it was never boring). What did I learn from this book? Where to start?! Probably the most surprising (and also the funniest) thing I found out in this book was that, as a young woman, Virginia participated in something called the "Dreadnought hoax," which involved a group of people (her, her brother and a couple of friends) dressing up in robes and fake beards pretending to be delegates from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and asking for a tour of the warship Dreadnought , which was the British Royal Navy's flagship, and represented such a huge advance in naval technology that it was kept under the tightest security, and the strictest secrecy, that existed at the time (which was not a whole lot, considering how easily this bunch of costumed young gentlepersons were able to bluff their way aboard!). The best part of this, for me, was the "Abyssinian" language the hoaxers spoke: most of them were classically educated, but the closest any of them got to knowing any African languages was knowing a few random words of Swahili, so they mostly "conversed" with one another by reciting scrambled-up Greek and Latin tags, with a little Swahili (and a lot of gibberish) mixed in for spice. There were a lot of other interesting tidbits scattered throughout the book; most of the ones I thought were the most interesting also underscored ways in which the period in which Virginia lived was very, very different from our own time. There's a sense that death is never far away in her world; throughout her life, she loses people who are close to her, sometimes very young and sometimes very suddenly. When she was in her early 20s, she lost her older brother to disease (typhoid, I think) while they were vacationing in Greece; shortly before that she had lost her father; she had lost her mother and half-sister when she was in her teens; when she was older and an established author, her friend/rival Katherine Mansfield, who was a few years younger than Virginia, died of tuberculosis; as she entered middle age she lost two close friends, Roger Fry, whose biography she wrote, and Lytton Strachey, and after that her sister, Vanessa, lost her beloved older son in the Spanish Civil War. Virginia was Vanessa's main support during her mourning, which was impressive considering Virginia's own recurring bouts of mental illness. A person living a life similar to Virginia Woolf's today --- a life of privilege, within a rich, industrialized country --- would probably not have such an intimate acquaintance with death. Another thing that astonished me about her life, and the extent to which the world she knew differed from the world I know, was her total lack of formal education. Again, this was a woman from a well-to-do, educated family, who had never been to school! Her father tutored her and her sister at home, giving her a pretty good grounding in English literature and the classics but leaving both girls completely ignorant of mathematics. Virginia, the book says, had to count on her fingers all her life! That astounds me, just as it would to read that some titan of science, like Niels Bohr or Nikola Tesla or Robert Boyle or Marie Curie, could not read without moving his or her lips. You gain a new level of sppreciation for the points Virginia makes in A Room of One's Own about the need for equal education for women. Finally, it was really interesting to read about the literary, artistic and countercultural (an anachronistic term that I think is nevertheless apt) group of people with whom Virginia worked and socialized for most of her lifetime. They were called the Bloomsbury group, after the neighborhood in London where they all lived. I really liked the way Quentin Bell (Vanessa's younger son and Virginia's nephew) makes all these personalities come alive, and how well he showed the varying degrees of intimacy between the various groups members. What I am trying to say is that this is an incredibly engaging, lively book that I think could be equally appealing to the longtime fan of Virginia Woolf, who might gain a deeper appreciation for certain aspects of her writing, or the more casual fan, in whom this book might ignite a deeper interest, and the person who has not read any Woolf but wants to know more about her. To this last reader, this book might serve as a sort of introduction or companion to her works, which can be difficult.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stacey (bookishpursuit)

    4.75 This was a fabulous and intimate look into Virginia Woolf's life. She is the first author I've been so interested in, that I've wanted to know as much as I can find out about her life. There wasn't a boring bone in her body. I continue to yearn for more, and have Vol II waiting on my shelf. I found Bell's writing to be quite easy, it feels effortless, and yet thoroughly engaging.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wouter

    This is the first biography I've ever read and I really liked it. I'm sure it's outdated, and perhaps Hermione Lee's biography is better, but I loved this book. It felt like I got to know Virginia personally and like I was there experiencing her life with her. I'm also excited to read her work knowing so much more about her now. Would definitely recommend if you're a fan of Woolf.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Garnette

    Appreciated this book so much that I took my two very young children to Rodmell for the summer. We walked her walks, spent time in her garden and toured the now historic house. With a life-long friend, Sylvia, wandered down the lane to river, sad yet understanding her decision. Seminal biography. I'm willing to consider re-reading it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joyce Jellison

    I could not finish this book. Quentin Bell is the mumbling, english uncle I never wanted or could understand. He goes on and on and I know he is saying something important but he has that damn accent and I am pissed he is taking so long to just tell me the story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matthew White

    Text, not insignificant, which does its part to smooth those gaps of unfamiliarities that are likely present in the manner of non-illumined visage. Ironically and even with its volume, there is little added to the cracked portraiture by its presence. This does not dilute it altogether, but a necessary linearity and occasional elemental restraint does. This is at once a biographical work, scientifically drawn; as examining its exhibit with imagination + skill. Artist is handled as is - facts and Text, not insignificant, which does its part to smooth those gaps of unfamiliarities that are likely present in the manner of non-illumined visage. Ironically and even with its volume, there is little added to the cracked portraiture by its presence. This does not dilute it altogether, but a necessary linearity and occasional elemental restraint does. This is at once a biographical work, scientifically drawn; as examining its exhibit with imagination + skill. Artist is handled as is - facts and letters make an historic and time-tempered account, insofar as that can be done when analysing creatives in second-person. The biography used a metallic mirror to the subject which, not unlike photography, is vaguely telling but can do little without real motion or floridity. Mind as science created thin bold hand craft which cannot be adjacently dissected or arranged unless with access-blood and insight. Little can change an impossible nature, but realistic foots were placed in the motion lain earth. With fragments can be compounded ideas. If you have read a Woolf you needn’t consume a facilitative word-mass about said individual; little will be added to any pre-existing thoughts or knowledge obtained from raw sources. A projection could well be posited and it would more than necessary be not dissimilar to that which is apparently present; you will be in possession already of ‘facts’ though ultimately it is the artists’ predilection for craft that blankets any later analyses. It is unlikely that this would be challenged by the author, an author or this as with all great construct there must be not malleable uniqueness. But this is altogether of material good + can be read (it can).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Despite being a faithful accounting of Woolf’s life with much useful information for Virginia Woolf fans, I did not get what I wanted most from Quentin Bell’s book. After reading Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, I was fascinated by the observant, insightful mind that so clearly saw into itself and the minds of others to create such nuanced and genuine characters. The person I found in this biography was a self-centered, difficult and periodically psychotic woman whose friends all recognized Despite being a faithful accounting of Woolf’s life with much useful information for Virginia Woolf fans, I did not get what I wanted most from Quentin Bell’s book. After reading Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, I was fascinated by the observant, insightful mind that so clearly saw into itself and the minds of others to create such nuanced and genuine characters. The person I found in this biography was a self-centered, difficult and periodically psychotic woman whose friends all recognized her brilliance, but unfortunately that brilliance didn’t come through to me except for Bell to tell me so. In other words Bell failed to do what Woolf does, create an image of a person that reveals her nature without the author having to spell it out for me. Probably I expect too much. It is unfair to compare Quentin Bell to Virginia Woolf. Perhaps we have to look at great art and literature separately from its creators. Just as it is not evident from looking at someone’s body, what kind of mind they have, it may not be possible to look at someone’s mind and determine what kind of art they can create, the art being an emergent property distinct from the mind that created it, just as the mind is from the body.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    I don't know that I get on very well with Quentin Bell as an author. His style is quite singular, a little dated maybe, although overall quite readable. He has great insight into his aunt's life, which helps make this an interesting biography, but sometimes I felt he was being a bit circumspect (for instance concerning her relationship with Vita Sackville-West), and indeed points to things that 'still cannot be said'. The beginning of the book, filling in the family background, I found quite a ch I don't know that I get on very well with Quentin Bell as an author. His style is quite singular, a little dated maybe, although overall quite readable. He has great insight into his aunt's life, which helps make this an interesting biography, but sometimes I felt he was being a bit circumspect (for instance concerning her relationship with Vita Sackville-West), and indeed points to things that 'still cannot be said'. The beginning of the book, filling in the family background, I found quite a chore, but things began to improve once he got into his subject. Then, once death and disaster began to strike I found the whole story quite overwhelming. No wonder Virginia Woolf had mental health issues after all the tragedy she experienced from a young age. There are plenty of amusing anecdotes to help lighten the mood, and a touching portrayal of her life with Leonard, but the most moving part of the book has to be the end, and her quite devastating suicide note. This is definitely an essential read for Woolf/Bloomsbury people, even if there are some areas that could have done with more explanation.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nadiarjam

    Quentin Bell had the benefit of knowing his subject, which is rare in a biographer. As a result there is a veracity to this book, something of a counterweight to balance Virginia Woolf's own biographical writings. Extracts of Virginia's writing sear the pages where they appear and she can't help but steal the show, but even so this is a sympathetic work which seems to treat the subject fairly. Virginia's brilliance and genius are celebrated. The pain of her mental sickness and the difficulties t Quentin Bell had the benefit of knowing his subject, which is rare in a biographer. As a result there is a veracity to this book, something of a counterweight to balance Virginia Woolf's own biographical writings. Extracts of Virginia's writing sear the pages where they appear and she can't help but steal the show, but even so this is a sympathetic work which seems to treat the subject fairly. Virginia's brilliance and genius are celebrated. The pain of her mental sickness and the difficulties this caused those who loved her are not shirked. The book is coy on intimate matters. Virginia Woolf's attitudes to love and sex are lightly touched on, and one senses that if this book were written for modern audiences, it would be expected to reveal more. Vanessa Bell's loves and affairs are not explored at all, and one is left wondering how Virginia felt about this aspect of her sister's life. That said this book gives a good sense of the sincerity of Virginia Woolf, which is such a feature of her writing, and I feel emboldened to to tackle more of her works as a result.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Landon

    A must read for those interested in Virginia Woolf. Very detailed and well written. The book is a history of Virginia Woolf. A lot has been written about Virginia Woolf's life and her works; there is no need to add anything here. The most interesting thing about this biography was the voice of the writer: Quentin Bell who was Virginia's nephew. The assumptions he makes, and the way he judges things are foreign to me, and I think it gives an idea of how things must have been for the Bloomsbury ty A must read for those interested in Virginia Woolf. Very detailed and well written. The book is a history of Virginia Woolf. A lot has been written about Virginia Woolf's life and her works; there is no need to add anything here. The most interesting thing about this biography was the voice of the writer: Quentin Bell who was Virginia's nephew. The assumptions he makes, and the way he judges things are foreign to me, and I think it gives an idea of how things must have been for the Bloomsbury types.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    This book changed my perceptions of myself and my cultural values. I confess that I read it straight through one weekend when I was living alone in North Hollywood while I waa studying for my MFA at Cal Arts.

  15. 5 out of 5

    C.

    I am sorely, sorely tempted to give this five stars. Terrifically solid stuff - so well-executed that it is almost perfection.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dana Safian

    A perfectly written source on Woolf's life.It's amazing how you find her character exceptional just as much as her works are.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I don't read a lot of biographies of writers since they so really give insight to the art. While I found this also true here, the book is still quite fascinating. The times she lived, the people she lived among, and the ways she lived and traveled are all very illuminating about her time and place. It's like our own lives, but different. What time they had for socializing and traveling! And still got so much work done! To maintain households, hold down jobs, write scores of letters, and still de I don't read a lot of biographies of writers since they so really give insight to the art. While I found this also true here, the book is still quite fascinating. The times she lived, the people she lived among, and the ways she lived and traveled are all very illuminating about her time and place. It's like our own lives, but different. What time they had for socializing and traveling! And still got so much work done! To maintain households, hold down jobs, write scores of letters, and still develop artistic sensibility, well, it boggles the mind. I did not learn anything to make me appreciate her literature any more -- if anything, it breaks a bit of the spell to witness the sweat she poured. Her madness, again, completely unilluminating. Perhaps Quentin Bell is not objective enough. I read that bio of her that came out 15 years ago that made much of the abuse from George Duckworth and I then dismissed it as overwrought and reaching. Now, though, reading Bell, I see more the anxiety that was created by the whole circumstance of her life, and so taken together, I think I have a greater understanding for her "madness."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pradeep Badatiya

    Awestruck by her last letter: Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am sp Awestruck by her last letter: Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that—everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been

  19. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    A biography of Virginia Woolf by her nephew Quentin Bell. I can't exaggerate how much I was not looking forward to this book and how much it has been an unexpected delight. It was on my biography shelves, inherited from my mother, and for nine years I have been slowly reading the books on the biography shelves in alphabetical order. So I am near the end. I have never been able to get into a Virginia Woolf book and I didn't think I'd like her as a person but I do love the Bloomsbury world and her A biography of Virginia Woolf by her nephew Quentin Bell. I can't exaggerate how much I was not looking forward to this book and how much it has been an unexpected delight. It was on my biography shelves, inherited from my mother, and for nine years I have been slowly reading the books on the biography shelves in alphabetical order. So I am near the end. I have never been able to get into a Virginia Woolf book and I didn't think I'd like her as a person but I do love the Bloomsbury world and here is a book written by someone who was a member of that world with the subject the most famous Bloomsbury novelist. I realised quickly that this was the second volume of a two volume biography. So Now I have volume one to look forward to. Quentin Bell writes easily and engagingly and he knows the subject and the persons who pass through his story. But he is never so involved that he can't step back and comment. I can see Virginia Woolf with more understanding and sympathy now although I still see her as a somewhat foreboding presence. But I'd like to try another of her books.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mary L.

    "Virginia Woolf: A Biography"is written by Virginia Woolf's nephew, Quentin Bell, son of Virginia's sister, Vanessa Bell. If you want a wonderful and captivating description of the Bloomsberry group by all means head straight for Quentin Bell's biograpy. It is beautifully written, filled with wonderfully full descriptions of life as a member of the English literary society of the day. There are also a large set of photographs illustrating life in London and at Charleston Farm rented by Vanessa "Virginia Woolf: A Biography"is written by Virginia Woolf's nephew, Quentin Bell, son of Virginia's sister, Vanessa Bell. If you want a wonderful and captivating description of the Bloomsberry group by all means head straight for Quentin Bell's biograpy. It is beautifully written, filled with wonderfully full descriptions of life as a member of the English literary society of the day. There are also a large set of photographs illustrating life in London and at Charleston Farm rented by Vanessa Bell. If you have a chance to visit Charleston Farm today you will spend a delightful afternoon savoring the atmosphere. (If any of you had seen my former review of this biography you will have noticed the difficulty with finding Quentin Bell's exact description. After a fast note to goodreads, they speedily fixed the problem. I was much impressed not only with their speed but their solution. Thank you, goodreads. Continue to love your web site.)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Heather Denigan

    Enjoyed Bell's biography of his famous aunt. He portrays her complexities, her passions, her whims and her humors, her affections and her prejudices, her fears, and yes, her sexuality too. (Although, Virginia appears far less fixated on her own sexuality than her modern readers are.) She appears with a varied cast of characters, all nearly as fascinating as she is. He writes with Austen-esque minuteness but I found the book moved quickly all the same. He portrays the everyday exterior events of Enjoyed Bell's biography of his famous aunt. He portrays her complexities, her passions, her whims and her humors, her affections and her prejudices, her fears, and yes, her sexuality too. (Although, Virginia appears far less fixated on her own sexuality than her modern readers are.) She appears with a varied cast of characters, all nearly as fascinating as she is. He writes with Austen-esque minuteness but I found the book moved quickly all the same. He portrays the everyday exterior events of her life as sparking her interior thoughts in much the same way that we see occurring in her novels. He writes with both compassion and a certain distance. I especially enjoyed his wry asides. (The style gives the impression that the book is older than it is. Or so it felt to me.) Bell primarily aims to give a sense of what Virginia was like while remarking wryly: "To know the psyche of Virginia Woolf . . . one would have to be either God or Virginia, preferably God."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Beatrice Marie

    You have to be a Virginia Woolf nut to even think of reading this book. It's over four hundred pages long in small print. I hesitated between giving it two or three stars. Its strong point are her nephew's encylopedic comments on her life. Who did she see? When? Where? The weak point is sometimes there was too much of "she did this with so-and-so" -- almost a Facebook of her life without enough comment on why she did what she did. Perhaps he wanted to remain objective? I did give it three points You have to be a Virginia Woolf nut to even think of reading this book. It's over four hundred pages long in small print. I hesitated between giving it two or three stars. Its strong point are her nephew's encylopedic comments on her life. Who did she see? When? Where? The weak point is sometimes there was too much of "she did this with so-and-so" -- almost a Facebook of her life without enough comment on why she did what she did. Perhaps he wanted to remain objective? I did give it three points, though, because toward the end 1)he did go into more detail about what she thought about her writing (varying between good and bad) 2)there's a heck of a lot of historical detail here, and 3)I am a Virginia Woolf nut. Coming away from this book, I realized just how much her mental illness dominated her life, and not just at the end.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Salvatore

    A fine biography - straightforward, chronological - though a bit removed from the action, despite the fact that the author was the subject's nephew. There's a light, bumbling sort of way he describes things - that he isn't interested in getting too close to the thick of it all (unlike Hermione Lee who may go a bit too far). Still it's concise and gives a decent overview of the major events of Woolf's life, and her difficulties in writing each of her novels and essay collections. I think that the A fine biography - straightforward, chronological - though a bit removed from the action, despite the fact that the author was the subject's nephew. There's a light, bumbling sort of way he describes things - that he isn't interested in getting too close to the thick of it all (unlike Hermione Lee who may go a bit too far). Still it's concise and gives a decent overview of the major events of Woolf's life, and her difficulties in writing each of her novels and essay collections. I think that the descriptive tone is summed up with how the author concludes the book: once Quentin Bell describes the fact that Woolf committed suicide on the final page he chooses not to discuss her any further. Anyway, an obvious read for Woolf fans.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    In my opinion, Virginia Woolf, by her nature, would seem to be an elusive subject for a biography. She was so very much a singular, inscrutable being. The source material of her life and personality are, to a certain extent, well-documented in her extensive journals and correspondence. Quentin Bell's achievement in this book is to bring a coherence to this material that gives the reader as intimate a portrait of Mrs. Woolf as can be created by a biographer. The fact of Mr. Bell being the nephew In my opinion, Virginia Woolf, by her nature, would seem to be an elusive subject for a biography. She was so very much a singular, inscrutable being. The source material of her life and personality are, to a certain extent, well-documented in her extensive journals and correspondence. Quentin Bell's achievement in this book is to bring a coherence to this material that gives the reader as intimate a portrait of Mrs. Woolf as can be created by a biographer. The fact of Mr. Bell being the nephew of Mrs. Woolf, and of his having actually known her as his aunt, lends a great deal more insight into his subject. This book is an invaluable part of the library of exegesis on the life and work of Mrs. Woolf. It is a grand read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ashlee Reed

    Fascinating insight...however peculiar. You would think a biography written by Virginia's nephew would lend itself to some deeper understanding of this woman and her life. However, one gets the impression while reading this that Mr. Bell cannot be objective and skims and glosses over major themes and events in Virginia's life (her lovers, her female friends, and even her death). If, however, you are looking to know everything about Bloomsbury group and how each member took their tea - this is fo Fascinating insight...however peculiar. You would think a biography written by Virginia's nephew would lend itself to some deeper understanding of this woman and her life. However, one gets the impression while reading this that Mr. Bell cannot be objective and skims and glosses over major themes and events in Virginia's life (her lovers, her female friends, and even her death). If, however, you are looking to know everything about Bloomsbury group and how each member took their tea - this is for you. Despite that, I did enjoy the read and am going to read another biographer's take to possibly fill in some of the things I felt were missing from this work.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Olsen

    I am sort of fascinated with Virginia Woolf. She seems odd and other worldly in the loveliest way. But to be honest I most wanted to learn about her sordid home life as a child. This book is unintentionally funny, not giving up the 'sick stuff that happened' goods though. However if you ever want to read gossip about what happened to V.W.'s great great great aunt who lived in India and is described by the author as "her person was pleasing, her manners courtly, her tastes extravagant and her hor I am sort of fascinated with Virginia Woolf. She seems odd and other worldly in the loveliest way. But to be honest I most wanted to learn about her sordid home life as a child. This book is unintentionally funny, not giving up the 'sick stuff that happened' goods though. However if you ever want to read gossip about what happened to V.W.'s great great great aunt who lived in India and is described by the author as "her person was pleasing, her manners courtly, her tastes extravagant and her horsemanship? Admirable." I haven't learned anything but it's pretty damn funny to pick a paragraph and read it out loud.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Belinda

    A very good biography because it is easy to read (despite words like pullulate and inchoate) and gives the reader VW as a rounded person, neither mad, sad, nor bad, but a mix of many things. My only problem is that QB was probably too close to be entirely objective, although he tries, and so she might be painted with either too kind or too stern a brush. Ironically Vanessa Bell, his mother, appears cold and snobbish. It does make me want to read more of VW's books and another, possibly more object A very good biography because it is easy to read (despite words like pullulate and inchoate) and gives the reader VW as a rounded person, neither mad, sad, nor bad, but a mix of many things. My only problem is that QB was probably too close to be entirely objective, although he tries, and so she might be painted with either too kind or too stern a brush. Ironically Vanessa Bell, his mother, appears cold and snobbish. It does make me want to read more of VW's books and another, possibly more objective, biography, but I certainly recommend this book to anyone.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elinor

    Fantastic book- interesting from a literary, historical, and psychological perspective. Virginia Woolf was hanging out with some pretty interesting people who pushed the envelope of Victorian morality. One of the most intriguing parts for me was learning about Virginia's manic-depressive illness and how it affected her writing. My only regret was that I was so invested in all the characters, that when Virginia dies at the end, I was left hanging- not knowing what became of all the people in her Fantastic book- interesting from a literary, historical, and psychological perspective. Virginia Woolf was hanging out with some pretty interesting people who pushed the envelope of Victorian morality. One of the most intriguing parts for me was learning about Virginia's manic-depressive illness and how it affected her writing. My only regret was that I was so invested in all the characters, that when Virginia dies at the end, I was left hanging- not knowing what became of all the people in her life.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Had this book since college, moving it from home to home. Decided to re-read it to remember why I saved it and discovered... Meh, just don't care that much about the life of another mentally ill artist, self-absorbed, struggling, meticulous about the written word but annoyingly weak in her envy, insecurity, worship of those she perceived as better than herself. The biography itself is well-written and researched, but I've lost my hero worship of the early 20th century British literary scene. I g Had this book since college, moving it from home to home. Decided to re-read it to remember why I saved it and discovered... Meh, just don't care that much about the life of another mentally ill artist, self-absorbed, struggling, meticulous about the written word but annoyingly weak in her envy, insecurity, worship of those she perceived as better than herself. The biography itself is well-written and researched, but I've lost my hero worship of the early 20th century British literary scene. I guess I'm ready to pass this book along to someone else since I couldn't bring myself to finish it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    D.A. Gray

    One of the better, most thorough biographies I've read anywhere. The prose is easy to digest, provides detailed events that stack up well against Woolf's own journal entries and provide great insight into Bloomsbury along with many of Woolf's own characters who have their inspiration in the Stephen family. Not only captured the life of Virginia but provides insight into the upper middle class, and the intellectual and artistic circles of England over a 40 year period.

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