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Virginia Woolf Paperback – June 7, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) (June 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753811472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753811474
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,009,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While most of Virginia Woolf's biographers (with the possible exception of her nephew Quentin Bell) bond with their subject through her vivid diaries and fiction, Nicolson (Portrait of a Marriage), the son of Woolf's lover Vita Sackville-West, draws on family archives and first-hand experience for his brisk, dutiful biography. For the young Nicolson, Woolf first appeared as a lively and amusing visitor. Not yet famous, to Nicolson she was like "a favourite aunt who brightened our simple lives with unexpected questions." Visiting Vita's stately home, Woolf might ask the young Nigel, "What's it like to be a child?" by way of research for To the Lighthouse, or she might make up histories for unidentified ancestral portraits as background for Orlando, her love-letter fantasy to Vita. Such personal glimpses enliven Nicolson's respectful position between various, often hotly contended views of Woolf as writer, feminist and Bloomsburian. Despite his insider's knowledge, which is nonetheless welcome, Nicolson manages to offer an objective perspective on Woolf's parents and siblings and on her childhood and youth. He is, however, less sensational than was Quentin Bell on her mental illness and the notorious early episodes when one of her half brothers examined her genitalia and the other forced his affections on her. Nicolson filters Woolf's writing career through VitaAand her opinions: she delighted in Orlando and was exasperated with the hyperbolic polemics of Three Guineas, the 1938 pacificist tract that was her penultimate work before her suicide. The world is no doubt weary of Woolf biographies, but this tidy and homely little introduction will sell to readers who may have been too intimidated by Woolf's modernist reputation to broach her life and work before. 3-city author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Woolf entered Nicolson's life when she and his mother, the writer Vita Sackville-West, fell in love, precipitating Woolf's only extramarital affair and inspiring Orlando (1928), the book that made her famous. An elegant stylist in his own right and one of the editors of Woolf's letters, Nicolson, whose boyhood recollections remain startlingly vivid, presents a unique perspective on Woolf and the now legendary world of Bloomsbury, recounting highly amusing conversations with the unpredictable woman he thought of as a "favorite aunt," and sharing insider information including the fact that she baked good bread. But he has more serious missions in mind, such as dismantling the myths associated with Woolf's childhood, accurately depicting her marriage and bouts with madness, and celebrating not only her transcendent novels but her prolific output as a journalist and the impact of Hogarth Press, an endeavor to which she and her husband were extraordinarily devoted. Nicolson's superb addition to the remarkable Penguin Lives series offers a deeply personal, compelling, and indelible likeness of one of the most fascinating and influential writers of all times. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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If you want to know about Virginia Woolf, or want to become reacquainted with her life and books, this is a book to read.
David A. Wend
VIRGINIA WOOLF by Nigel Nicolson departs from the template used by the Penguin Lives series so far as I've read down the list.
C. Ebeling
Nicolson's portrait is a remarkably rich and concrete one, a splendid portrait of an amazingly gifted and complex individual.
Robert Moore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on December 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
VIRGINIA WOOLF by Nigel Nicolson departs from the template used by the Penguin Lives series so far as I've read down the list. It cannot claim that its subject exists in obscurity behind clouds of legend or of lack of existing documentation. Woolf was a public person in her life time, she left not only a respectable body of work but an extensive collection of letters, essays and journals. She has been the subject of substantial, well received biographies and is also featured prominently in profiles of Bloomsbury, the Hogarth Press and biographies of her contemporaries. This volume is also distinguished from others in the Penguin Lives Series in that it was written by the son of Woolf's female lover, Vita Sackville-West; in other words, someone close to the inner circle. Woolf belongs to the visitable past. The book remains, however, a fine member of the Series because of its skill in purveying the whole through a spritely revisiting of the significant passages in Woolf's life. Nicholson writes with warmth and holds forth his opinions in controversial areas, but he is impressively objective given his relationship with his subject and those closest to her. Nicolson manages to capture all the ambiguities of the woman, makes them comprehensible, honest and, sparingly, poignant.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Marren VINE VOICE on February 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is a personal, quirky memoir by the son of Virginia Woolf's lover Vita Sackville-West. The author does not attempt an objective, complete study of Woolf's life, which is a disappointment if that's what you're looking for. Rather, he draws on his own personal recollections of Woolf during his childhood and those of Woolf's contemporaries. Although interesting, I felt a lot was missing--if you are not very familiar with the Bloomsbury circle you will find the many references to people who moved in and out of that orbit over the years confusing. And the author offers no explanation or insight into the mental illness Woolf strugglesd with her entire life. As a result, her suicide seems to come out of the blue. This book is an interesting look at an interesting woman, but shouldn't be the first thing you read about Woolf.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David A. Wend on January 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I would call this a portrait and not a biography. This is not meant to denigrate a wonderful book but differentiate it from full-blown biographies that extend to volumes. Rather, this is an intimate portrait by someone who knew Virginia Wolf, has read her books and edited her letters for publication.
Nigel Nicolson gives us an intimate portrait of Virginia Woolf in a highly readable book of 191 pages. Because of his mother Vita Sackville-West's close relationship with Virginia we gain a perspective that a biographer who takes his subject as an assignment cannot always supply. However, Mr. Nicolson maintains his objectivity giving us a Virginia Woolf with all her complexity and contradictions. We are treated to frequent quotes from her diaries and letters that bring her all the closer. I enjoyed the personal touch offered by Mr. Nicolson; he is not intrusive and when he speaks from his personal knowledge of his subjects he adds a dimension of intimacy. You come away with a feeling that you know something of Virginia Woolf rather than facts about her.
There are several photographs illustrating the book. If you want to know about Virginia Woolf, or want to become reacquainted with her life and books, this is a book to read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "blissengine" on January 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I agree with the previous reviewer that this is more of a snapshot than a meticulous biography, but in this short space, we are given a fascinating glimpse into the life of Woolf through the gaze of Nicolson, the son of Woolf's lover. Nicolson gives us a full sense of Woolf's history, as well as the influences on her life, her art, and on her death. The final chapter where he describes the final days before Woolf's suicide is quite moving and informative. I finished the book with an even greater love of Woolf and her work, as well as a deeper understanding of her ways.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Whitney VINE VOICE on July 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I had never read anything by Virginia Woolf, but saw this short book in the store and thought it would be a good introduction. Since I am not acquainted with her, the brevity of the book encouraged me to take a chance. After reading about her life & the various stages during which she wrote her books, I am more encouraged to pick up one of her works.
Nigel Nicolson obviously has an admiration for Virginia Woolf, as she was one of his mother's lovers, and a family friend, but I believe the tone of the book to be fair. He frankly discusses her shortcomings and her highlights. I would recommend this for anyone interested in learning more about thsi influential artist. It would be an excellent read for a high school literature class that is looking for the person behind the name of Virginia Woolf.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leeper on January 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
After reading some of Mrs. Woolf's fiction, I decided to read a bit about her background to see how much it influenced her writing. Given the size and length of this book, I felt that this would work best. After reading this book, I believe this is the best choice for learning about Virginia Woolf.
The author knew Mrs. Woolf personally. He met her through his mother, who was one of Mrs. Woolf's lovers. He was a child at the time, so some of his observations do not go into depth but are merely an observation (such as an observation about a party held by the Bloomsbury group). Nicholson has done quite a bit of research and read through many of her letters (including those to and from his mother), so there is some intriguing information.
This does not read like a narrative. Although the material is arranged chronologically, at times the book talks about the controversy around Mrs. Woolf rather than about Mrs. Woolf. For instance, rather than discussion the relations of the family, he discusses the controversy that Mrs. Woolf may have been raped by her half brother. The author discusses the different theories and supports his through the wording of letters. Although interesting, I would rather focus on Virginia.
Putting aside the author's editorializing, I would recommend this book only as a start for studying Virginia Woolf.
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