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Virginia Woolf
— —
Hermione Lee
Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee at Abbey's Bookshop,

Virginia Woolf

Hermione Lee



Biography: general;
Literary studies: from c 1900 -;
Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers


600 pages

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Hermione Lee sees Virginia Woolf afresh, in her historical setting and as a vital figure for our times. Her book moves freely between a richly detailed life-story and new attempts to understand crucial questions - the impact of her childhood, the cause and nature of her madness and suicide, the truth about her marriage, her feelings for women, her prejudies and obsessions. This is a vivid, close-up portrait, returning to primary sources, and showing Woolf as occupying a distinct, even uneasy position with 'Bloomsbury'. It is a writer's life, illustrating how the concerns of her work arise and develop, and a political life, which establishes Woolf as a radically sceptical, subversive, courageous feminist. Incorporating newly discovered sources and illustrated with photos and drawings never used before, this biography is a revelation -informed, intelligent and moving.

By:   Hermione Lee
Imprint:   Vintage
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   New edition
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 48mm
Weight:   979g
ISBN:   9780099732518
ISBN 10:   0099732513
Pages:   600
Publication Date:   November 1997
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Virginia Woolf derided most biography as 'poppycock'. When she began her own 'sketch of the past' in the last two years of her life, she insisted that there must be a relation between the obscure areas of personality, the soul, and forces like class and social pressures, otherwise 'how futile life-writing becomes'. Lee has that great gift for a biographer - her own style and firmly authorial voice, without irritating conjecture. So you, the reader, know where she wants to lead you because she is unquestionably in command of her subject, but you also know that she is not going to fool you with surmises. She manages, through intelligent marshalling of meticulously researched material, to present an intensive view of an introspective woman who was also a distinct representative of a social class and the Bloomsbury group. Lee does not begin with any of the typical premises about Woolf. Woolf is not an 'incest survivor', a 'sexually abused child', a 'snob' or, simply, 'insane'. Critically, Lee does not take the view that Woolf is a victim, determined from the outset to kill herself. This fact-based approach means that we are free to enjoy a rich characterization of Virginia Woolf at every stage of her life. Lee writes elegantly, believably and with much new material taken from letters and papers not seen before. This is an intimate picture of Virginia Woolf - Ms Woolf struggling with her work, at home with friends, with family, with pets, with her private griefs and public wit, with her wardrobe, her cigarettes and her muddled sexiness. There is also an unflinching, dissected, carefully reported examination of her periodic illness - her 'nerves' - and her resultant sensitivity that makes her final act of suicide - when she was sure that England would lose the war, and when she had been bombed out badly in London and had her peaceful world in the country turned upside down - if not acceptable, at least understandable. Above all, this is a political life which establishes Woolf as a radical sceptic, a subversive feminist and a fighter against fascism of the state and of the mind. It is also a feast of detail for Bloomsbury fans. But perhaps the most engaging aspect of the book is the amount of sheer fun and physical vanity Virginia Woolf is allowed to display by her Lee. (Kirkus UK)

  • Winner of Rose Mary Crawshay Prize 1997
  • Winner of Rose Mary Crawshay Prize 1997.
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