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Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life Hardcover – November 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0151011438 ISBN-10: 0151011435 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151011435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151011438
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,410,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [Signature]Reviewed by Daphne MerkinThe famous question, surely, needs amending by now: who isn't afraid of Virginia Woolf—of writing about her, at least? Ever since this most singularly gifted of women, whose genius is as protean as it is profound, committed suicide at the age of 58 in 1941 at the height of her creative powers, her life and work has engendered an unremitting flow of books. These have included massively researched tomes and slender impressionistic volumes on every aspect of Woolf, from her pedigreed background and difficult Victorian childhood to her unconventional marriage to Leonard, the "penniless Jew," her Sapphic inclinations and the modernist Bloomsbury circle in which she moved. Certain subsets of questions—what was the particular nature of her mental illness? Did she or did she not suffer sexual abuse as an adolescent at the hands of her two half-brothers?—have inspired whole bookshelves of answers. In the more than half-century since Woolf put a large stone in her pocket late one March morning and walked into the Ouse River near her house in Sussex, the documentation and speculation have not ceased. Enough has been said, or so one would think. I might add, with all due lack of humility, that I am in a particularly good position to think thusly, since it would not be stretching things too far to say that I have read the vast majority of these books, including Hermione Lee's magisterial biography, which appeared in 1997. So it is the more surprising to find Julia Briggs's new intellectual biography of Woolf not only a mesmerizing read but one that adds fresh dabs of paint to what I had otherwise assumed to be a finished portrait. The emphasis on Woolf's "inner life"—on her ongoing creative process and on her response to the critical reception of her work—is especially suited to a writer who was in the rapt habit of watching herself think, keeping track of the quicksilver movements of her own mind like a fisherman on the lookout for the sudden tug on his pole, the flash of a fin. (Woolf was drawn to water imagery throughout her life as a metaphor for the process of intellection.) And Briggs has done an extraordinarily skillful job of interweaving Woolf's experience as a writer with her experience as a woman in the world, one who pondered the "life of frocks" and who had arguments with her cook."How I interest myself!" Woolf wrote in a diary entry. And how she continues to interest us, not least because of the fascination she exerts on other talented readers and writers, like Julia Briggs. That this book is a must for Woolf fans goes without saying, but it is also a must for anyone interested in the nature of female consciousness at its most self-aware and the workings of artistic sensibility at their most illuminating. B&w photos. (Nov.)Daphne Merkin is the author of Enchantment, a novel, and Dreaming of Hitler, a collection of essays. She writes a book column for Elle.
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From Booklist

Yes, another Woolf biography, but a unique one given that Briggs concentrates on Woolf's paradigm-altering work, and on Woolf's fascination with the workings of the mind. Briggs tracks the creation of each book, beginning with Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out, published in 1915 when she was 33, and concluding with Between the Acts (1941). By lacing her supple, revelatory readings of each book with relevant, judiciously analyzed biographical information, Briggs creates a vital portrait of a perfectionist who endured "rewriting madness," a questing woman who relished life when she was free of the depression that stalked her, and a visionary determined to combat misogyny and invent a new type of novel that would "give the feeling of the vast tumult of life." Happily, the vastly gifted writer who takes shape on these pages is the very genius readers intuit when reading Woolf's work. Woolf believed that women writers could "make the connection between literature and life," and Briggs has done just that in her sterling interpretation. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Briggs biography of Virginia Woolf follows a form that makes perfect sense for a biography of a writer. That is, it is a "biography" of her books as much as it is a biography of Virginia Woolf herself.

Not a great deal of time is spent going into Woolf's pre-natal background and infant years. The text quickly gets to the task of looking at the formative influences of Woolf the writer, and the circumstances and stimuli that influenced the creation and formation of each of her books.

A chronological approach is followed. We begin with the first efforts of writing, the first novel, and proceed sequentially through each of her books. A full chapter is given to the period in which each book was written and published. Each chapter concludes with details on the actual book, including such items as the novel's original cover illustration (usually done by her artist sister Vanessa), the size of the print runs, the critics responses, and how the book fared over the years, even up into the 1990s. Honestly, I found information like this very interesting. For one, it was interesting to see how first print runs increased as Woolf gradually grew in popularity.

What I most like about Brigg's approach is that you come away with key insights that any appreciator of Woolf should cherish. One learns a great deal about the process that Woolf went through in creating her works as well as about the life of Woolf herself.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Oksol VINE VOICE on August 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
this book as a biography or as a series of critical essays of Virginia Woolf's novels and other works. I lumped this book with the other three biographies of VW that I have read this past year (Quentin Bell's, Hermione Lee's, and James King's) but Julia Brigg's "biography" is actually quite different, and probably should stand alone, not be compared with the other three. Each of Briggs' fourteen chapters covers one specific work by VW. For example, chapter 4 is "Jacob's Room"; chapter 5 is "The Common Reader"; chapter 6 is "Mrs Dalloway"; and, chapter 13 is "Roger Fry." Briggs provides an exhaustive look and interpretation (sometimes, almost too exhaustive) of each of VW's works, and uses these works to explore VW's psyche. VW was intensely interested in psychoanalysis (as was Gertrude Stein) and one could argue that Briggs has used VW's works as a way to psychoanalyze her. Briggs is well qualified in this endeavor: for many years she was professor of Woolf studies at Hereford College, Oxford, and is currently the editor of the Penguin UK reprint series of Woolf's novels.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joyce Schwarz on October 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Julie Briggs is an amazing author and biographer. She is an ENglish prof at DeMontfant University in Leicester, England. She was the general editor for the Penguin UK reprint series of Woolf's novels so knows Virginia's work very well...I think this knowledge of the work and the structure of the work makes this rather indepth analysis of the famous author's motivation for writing the novels, personal circumstances surrounding the writing, her marriage, her friendships and her ever-declining health and mental problems is what makes this book so fascinating...It's no ordinary bio-- it concentrates on the work and the impetus for the work. Reading this book is like being allowed inside the writer's head and her 'office' while and after she creates her many volumes. Don't I wish I had read this book in college-- it really makes you understand not only writer motivations but the implosion the world around makes on the writer and his/her works. Great for any Woolf fan or for use in teaching Woolf or for any writer or would-be writer. Fabulous for use in women's studies programs...and fascinating for anyone struggling with their own creativity or stifled dreams/goals.
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By foxx on April 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A thoroughly, intelligent well written book about an intelligent,thoughtful writer.The prose takes you into the creative processes of V. Wolf allowing you to see how her thoughts are then "translated" into a book.Not only is the inner turmoil of the creative process given light,but also her inner demons that caused her extreme stress.The every day problems ,the practical issues of making a living,plus the censorship of the day,and the general condescending attitude towards women,are all given space in this extremely interesting book.Read it.
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