×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Virginia Woolf
     

Virginia Woolf

4.5 4
by Hermione Lee, Hermoine Lee
 

See All Formats & Editions

"A biography wholly worthy of the brilliant woman it chronicles. . . . It rediscovers Virginia Woolf afresh."  --The Philadelphia Inquirer
            
While Virginia Woolf--one of our century's most brilliant and mercurial writers--has had no shortage of biographers, none has seemed as

Overview

"A biography wholly worthy of the brilliant woman it chronicles. . . . It rediscovers Virginia Woolf afresh."  --The Philadelphia Inquirer
            
While Virginia Woolf--one of our century's most brilliant and mercurial writers--has had no shortage of biographers, none has seemed as naturally suited to the task as Hermione Lee. Subscribing to Virginia Woolf's own belief in the fluidity and elusiveness of identity, Lee comes at her subject from a multitude of perspectives, producing a richly layered portrait of the writer and the woman that leaves all of her complexities and contradictions intact.  Such issues as sexual abuse, mental illness, and suicide are brought into balance with the immensity of her literary achievement, her heroic commitment to her work, her generosity and wit,  and her sanity and strength.

It is not often that biography offers the satisfactions of great fiction--but this is clearly what Hermione Lee has achieved. Accessible, intelligent, and deeply pleasurable to read, her Virginia Woolf will undoubtedly take its place as the standard biography for years to come.

"One of the most impressive biographies of the decade: moving, eloquent, powerful as both literary and social history."  
--Financial Times

"The most distinguished study of Woolf yet."  --The New Republic

 

Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Judd

My college roommates and I sometimes argued about which of us looked or acted most like Virginia Woolf. We rarely discussed her novels. Hermione Lee has written the latest Woolf biography for people like me -- fans of the Virginia Woolf legend who are less intrigued by her prose. Nothing short of a biographer's dream, Woolf is famous for her feminism, friendships with Bloomsbury artists, romantic relationships with women, recurring bouts of madness, childhood sexual abuse and suicide, and Lee delivers the goods in this absorbing and well-researched book.

If you're not well acquainted with Woolf's history, however, this biography is not for you. Lee -- annoyingly -- assumes familiarity with Woolf's life, casually dropping names and mentioning family incidents without explanation. (For example, she refers to the Dreadnought Hoax several times but waits until page 278 to relate the incident in which Woolf and friends dressed up as Abyssinians, tricking the British Navy into taking them aboard a warship.) The book's structure will be another obstacle for newcomers; Lee organizes chapters around themes like "Abuses" or "Party-Going," rather than telling Woolf's story chronologically. Adding to the confusion, Lee writes as if Woolf's novels are common knowledge, and neither summarizes the plots nor explains the novelist's contribution to modernism.

On the other hand, Lee adopts the perfect tone for Woolf aficionados: bracing, forthright, even confiding. Having sifted through volumes of correspondence, reminiscences and sometimes conflicting information, Lee debunks the wilder speculations about Woolf and draws reasonable conclusions about long-standing controversies. For instance, she re-examines the myth that Woolf's marriage was loveless by citing diary passages of true affection; after 25 years of marriage, Woolf wrote, "You see, it is an enormous pleasure, being wanted: a wife. And our marriage so complete." Similarly, Lee tempers Woolf's reputation for mean-spirited gossip by citing examples of her extraordinary kindness. And she balances Virginia's reputation as a depressive with anecdotes about her mischievousness and light-hearted friendships.

By calling into question the prevailing images of Woolf as madwoman, daffy genius or elitist snob, Lee paints the writer as far more nuanced than such distorted myths suggest. Even Lee's explanation of Woolf's enduring appeal is characteristically complex. She quotes Woolf on Shelley: "There are some stories which have to be retold by each generation, not that we have anything new to add to them, but because of some queer quality in them which makes them not only Shelley's story but our own." I'd simply add that Woolf's story is delicious enough to deserve one more retelling. -- Salon

Newsday
A majestic literary biography, a truly new, surprisingly fresh portrait

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375701368
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/28/1999
Edition description:
1 VINTAGE
Pages:
944
Sales rank:
268,952
Product dimensions:
5.21(w) x 7.97(h) x 1.92(d)

Meet the Author

Hermione Lee is a biographer, critic, teacher of literature, and president of Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Among her many works are literary biographies of Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton, and Penelope Fitzgerald, which won the James Tait Black Prize and the Plutarch Award for the best biography of 2014. She is also the author of critical books on Elizabeth Bowen and Philip Roth. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Literature, and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was made a CBE in 2003 for services to literature, and a DBE in 2013 for services to literary scholarship. She lives in Oxford and Yorkshire.

www.hermionelee.com

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
After seeing the hours, I wanted to know all about Virginia Woolf, I chose this book as it has her entire life history in it. This book is so uniquely written, never boring, I hated to be interrupted and couldn't put it down. It will stay in my library as a keeper...Great Depth!! A must read for Virginia Woolf fans, or history buffs. Very rich, and descriptively written, and very factual