Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee – Dalloway Day 5

Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (Vintage: 1997, 9780099732518)

Today my Dalloway Week Woolf fest comes to and end, and I’m giving Hermione Lee’s biography of Virginia Woolf the honour (ha! LOL. Snickering of all manner) of being the first non-fiction title posted to Absurd Reviews.

Reading a Virginia Woolf biography, as with any writer or artist who was highly influential within a literary or art movement, transcends voyeurism and the romanticising of ‘The Writer’. This one presents a rich overview of not only Woolf’s life and letters and of literary Modernism, but also of literature through the times, history, psychology, sociology, art. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the first half of the 20th century in England. It shows English society (though it does branch out at times) through a human prism and humanises history; makes it less impersonal.

Woolf led a fascinating life. Her brand of feminism was crucial at the time, especially in the fields of the arts, literature, education, and even politics. Though she endured and was submissive to the patriarchy in many respects – no university for her, only her brothers; her husband was disturbingly controlling, and even forbade her from having children, which she acquiesced to; doctors failed her tragically – she opened doors for women writer that came after her.

I particularly commend Lee for the way she approaches Woolf’s mental health struggles. She stays well away from gratuitous exploitation – Woolf’s illnesses, sadly, were often intimately bound to her art, and this perspective gives us a greater understanding of her work. There is much joy in this book as well; the same joy we see in her books. Woolf’s excitement about life had obviously dimmed at the end of it after 59 years, but mostly it endured her many periods of convalescence and suffering.

This is an essential to any admirer of Woolf’s work, and an outstanding resource for anyone interested in the time period of Woolf’s life, 1882-1941.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s