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Virginia Woolf by Nigel Nicolson


Virginia Woolf is not an unknown name. However, it recently occurred to me that, despite having read a few of her novels, I actually knew very little about the twentieth-century writer’s life. Part of the Bloomsbury Group and a shaker in feminist literature, she is definitely an icon in British literature, and I decided that now was the time for me to delve deeper. It was by chance only that I happened upon a biography about her written by Nigel Nicolson, son of Vita Sackville-West, Virginia’s lover of several years.

The first thing that must be praised about this biography is how concise and yet thorough it is. It expertly condenses an entire life into fewer than two hundred pages, telling the novelist’s exquisite tales of love, travel, and determination.

As a writer myself, digging into Virginia’s writer’s spirit is an invaluable, eye-opening experience, and I would definitely recommend it to anybody else who is partial to the written word. However, I would also advise that you proceed with caution. While I was aware that Virginia’s life had ended by her own hand, I had not realised justrtoup quite how severe her battle with mental instability was; Nicolson gently recounts her various attempts at suicide, sensitive about the matter, but also not glossing over just how serious it was, and just how much she struggled.

The fact that this biography is written by the son of Sackville-West, the object of Virginia’s lesbian affair, gives it that little bit more credibility. Not only is it beautifully written, but it is done so by a man who spent some of his childhood in Virginia’s company. He perfectly balances the facts of Virginia’s existence with personal memories to create an emotional, touching record of Virginia’s life.

I cannot praise this biography enough. I went in with very little knowledge about Virginia Woolf, and now I feel utterly connected with her: as a writer, as a female, as a creative. This may only be the beginning of a long and beautiful road researching her life and works, but it is a wonderful beginning, and a fantastic starting point that I would recommend to anybody looking to embark on a similar journey discovering just who exactly Virginia Woolf was.

Written by Amy McLean


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