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All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf
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Katharine Smyth
All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf by Katharine Smyth at Abbey's Bookshop,

All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf

Katharine Smyth


Atlantic Books

Autobiography: general;
Autobiography: literary;
Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers;
Coping with death & bereavement


320 pages

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Following her father's death, Katharine Smyth turned to her favourite novel, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, as a way of making sense of her bereavement. Written out of a lifelong admiration for Woolf and her work, Katharine's story moves between the New England of her childhood and Woolf's Cornish coasts and Bloomsbury squares, addressing universal questions about family, loss and homecoming.

But All the Lives We Ever Lived, which braids memoir, biography, and literary criticism, is also an intimate reading of one woman's talismanic text. Through her thoughtful engagement with To the Lighthouse, and her adaptation of its groundbreaking structure, Katharine guides the reader toward a deeper understanding of Woolf's most demanding and rewarding novel - and crafts an elegant reminder of literature's ability to clarify and console.

By:   Katharine Smyth
Imprint:   Atlantic Books
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   Main
Dimensions:   Height: 223mm,  Width: 145mm,  Spine: 28mm
Weight:   525g
ISBN:   9781786492852
ISBN 10:   1786492857
Pages:   320
Publication Date:   March 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Katharine Smyth attended Brown University and Oxford University. She has worked for The Paris Review and taught writing at Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

In her brilliant debut, Katharine Smyth has done the impossible - invented a new form for the overworked genre of memoir, weaving Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse into her personal story as she absorbs the meaning of her beloved father's long illness and early death. Her prose is luxuriant and supple, but never sentimental, and her piercing insights into the dynamics of the nuclear family often profound. -- Michael Scammell, author of Koestler and Solzhenitsyn All the Lives We Ever Lived is a work of vivid intelligence-a sharp love letter to the reading and relationships that shape us, and an ingenious reply to the questions Woolf asked her readers to answer for themselves. -- Nell Stevens, author of Bleaker House and Mrs Gaskell and Me I loved All the Lives We Ever Lived: its structural inventiveness, its fluid and lyrically beautiful writing - some lines made me gasp - and its often astonishing wisdom. But above all, this is a smart, moving portrait of a family in crisis; Smyth weaves literary criticism and biography into nearly every page, but she never strays from the deepest concerns of the human heart. -- Jamie Quatro, author of Fire Sermon and I Want to Show You More This gorgeous, moving book gracefully moves between memoir and literary criticism... Smyth's writing possesses a unique ability to wend its way into your head, traveling into all the darkest corners of your mind, triggering thoughts on love and loss and family and memory you hadn't known were lurking; it's a profound experience, reading this book - one not to be missed. * Nylon * Brilliant... All the Lives is a memoir, yes, but also part biography, part lit crit, part adulation - the story of the emotional turmoil of her father's alcoholism, cancer diagnosis, and eventual death, organized as a paean to a British novel written in the 1920s... Smyth reaffirms the value of novels as existential guideposts.... beautiful. * Vulture * A conceptually ambitious and assured debut... a close reading of that novel from the perspective of an obsessed reader who is both coming-of-age and coming to terms... A work of incisive observation and analysis, [with] exquisite writing. * Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review) * Like H Is for Hawk, Smyth's book is a memoir that's not quite a memoir, using Woolf, and her obsession with Woolf, as a springboard to tell the story of her father's vivid life and sad demise due to alcoholism and experiment in 21st-century introspection that feels rooted in a modernist tradition and bracingly fresh. * Vogue * All the Lives We Ever Lived is both a reflection on To the Lighthouse and a lingeringly beautiful elegy in its own right. * Los Angeles Review of Books * [Smyth's] prose is so fluid and clear throughout that it's not surprising to observe her view of her family, its cracks and fissures, sharpen into unsparing focus... Her exploration of grown-up love, the kind that accounts for who the loved one actually is, not who you want him or her to be, gains power and grace as her story unfolds. I suspect her book could itself become solace for people navigating their way through the complexities of grief for their fallen idols. And they will be lucky to have it. -- Radhika Jones * New York Times Book Review * This searching memoir pays homage to To the Lighthouse, while recounting the author's fraught relationship with her beloved father, a vibrant figure afflicted with alcoholism and cancer... evocative and incisive. * New Yorker * Blending analysis of a deeply literary novel with a personal story... gently entwining observations from Woolf's classic with her own layered experience. Smyth tells us of her love for her father, his profound alcoholism and the unpredictable course of the cancer that ultimately claimed his life. * TIME * Smyth is an elegant writer and she explores her deep, complicated love for her father in lyrical yet restrained prose. * Literary Review * Deeply moving... This is a beautiful book about the wildness of mortal life, and the tenuous consolations of art. -- Joanna Kavenna * TLS * This is a transcendent book, not a simple meditation on one woman's loss, but a reflection on all of our losses, on loss itself, on how to remember and commemorate our dead. * Washington Post * Beautifully written... a gift to readers drawn to big questions about time, memory, mortality, love and grief... you'd be hard put to find a more moving appreciation of Woolf's work. * Wall Street Journal *

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