Virginia Woolf And the women who shaped her world

Gillian Gill

Book - 2019

"An insightful, witty look at Virginia Woolf through the lens of the extraordinary women closest to her"--

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BIOGRAPHY/Woolf, Virginia
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Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019.
Physical Description
xxiv, 408 pages : illustrations, genealogical table ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 356-359) and index.
Main Author
Gillian Gill (author)
  • Virginia Woolf's Indian ancestresses : Thérèse de l'Etang and Adeline Pattle
  • Pattledom
  • High society
  • Finders keepers
  • William and Isabella
  • Anny and Minny
  • Virginia Woolf's mad, bad sister
  • Julia Prinsep Jackson Duckworth Stephen
  • Stella Duckworth Hills
  • A close conspiracy
  • From Cambridge to Bloomsbury
  • The landmark year
  • The great betrayal
  • Vanessa's way part 1
  • Virginia's way part 1
  • Vanessa's way part 2
  • Virginia's way part 2
  • Epilogue : the Bell children and their aunt.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this often overly speculative book, Gill (We Too, Nightingales) places Virgina Woolf within the context of the women in her life and, particularly, in her family. Gill traces Woolf's connection to imperial India--her mother, Julia Jackson Stephen, was born there--and to "Pattledom," a legendary artistic and literary salon of the 1850s founded by her great-aunts, including pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. From there Gill moves to the deeply dysfunctional family environment in which Woolf grew up, and to the Bloomsbury set with which she became associated. Gill's writing is lively, pinpointing the amusing, sometimes salacious, and ultimately damaging aspects of Woolf's multiple worlds. She does climb out on some speculative limbs. Yes, as Gill speculates, the troubles of Woolf's mentally challenged half-sister, Laura, might have been exacerbated by incestuous advances from their half-brother, George--with whom Woolf had her own sexual encounter--but, even as Gill notes, there is no evidence for this. Similarly, Gill suggests that the family preserved no images of Woolf's great-great-grandmother, Thérèse Josephe Blin de Grincourt, because of her reportedly Bengali ancestry. Woolf fans will be entertained, but left feeling, uneasily, that this rollicking story perhaps contains an overflow of conjecture and opinion, and too few hard facts. (Dec.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Gill (We Two: Victoria and Albert) presents the life of Virginia Woolf (1882--1941) within the social and literary context of her time, expounding on the influence of the women with whom she was exceptionally close, including her mother, sisters, aunt, and niece. Moreover, Gill demonstrates the extent to which women were hampered by social constraints, and how Woolf's relatives provided the impetus for her own achievements. Woolf resented the limitations imposed by the male-dominated culture that denied her the education her brothers received and failed to protect her from their sexual abuse. Always aware of the significance of gender, Woolf identified as a feminist while enjoying a happy marriage to author Leonard Woolf. Gill additionally examines Woolf's mental health issues, which resulted in periods of depression and several suicide attempts, the last of which was fatal. The Bloomsbury Group, consisting primarily of Cambridge intellectuals, writers, and artists, also figures prominently, with its libertine reaction against Victorianism. VERDICT Despite the occasionally gossipy tone and casual language that detracts from the work's overall scholarly perspective, this volume will be welcomed by readers and students curious about the cultural aspects of Woolf's development as a writer.--Denise J. Stankovics, Vernon, CT

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