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Virginia Woolf: A biography

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  2,051 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Pictured here is the 1972 Book Club Edition.
Hardcover, 556 pages
Published January 1st 1974 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (first published January 1st 1971)
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Paul Bryant
Virginia Woolf was the fiercely brainy and extremely posh girl I would have been far too shy to even dream of speaking to, had I been around then.

But, in an alternative slipstream of history, it turned out that I was alive at the time, and blow me down, there she was in the Smoke Room at the Old Butcher's Dog in Oxford one lovely spring evening in 1927. Her dress shimmered like an aura of sheer organdie, and just as she was about to tuck into some doves' brains on parsley, I turned to her and sa
Appreciated this book so much that I took my two very young children to Rodmell for the summer. We walked her walks, spent time in her garden and toured the now historic house. With a life-long friend, Sylvia, wandered down the lane to river, sad yet understanding her decision. Seminal biography. I'm willing to consider re-reading it.
Joyce Jellison
I could not finish this book. Quentin Bell is the mumbling, english uncle I never wanted or could understand. He goes on and on and I know he is saying something important but he has that damn accent and I am pissed he is taking so long to just tell me the story.
I don't know that I get on very well with Quentin Bell as an author. His style is quite singular, a little dated maybe, although overall quite readable. He has great insight into his aunt's life, which helps make this an interesting biography, but sometimes I felt he was being a bit circumspect (for instance concerning her relationship with Vita Sackville-West), and indeed points to things that 'still cannot be said'.

The beginning of the book, filling in the family background, I found quite a ch
Marta Marzietta
Dopo anni di silenzio critico, in cui di Virginia Woolf appariva solo qualche sporadico saggio, o qualche pubblicazione sconnessa, che non potevano rendere giustizia alla forza di un’opera che va letta nel sua interezza e nel suo sviluppo, negli ultimi anni il mondo dell’editoria sembra aver ritrovato vivo interesse per la complessa figura di questa intellettuale difficile e scomoda.
Rallegra il fatto che anche in Italia negli ultimi tempi alcune case editrici abbiano dedicato uno spazio sempre
Oct 31, 2011 Lindsay rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with even the slightest interest in Virginia Woolf
I was expecting this book to be kind of dry, and slow going, but was pleasantly surprised at how exciting, readable and just plain fun it was most of the time! (Other times it could be very sad, but it was never boring).

What did I learn from this book? Where to start?! Probably the most surprising (and also the funniest) thing I found out in this book was that, as a young woman, Virginia participated in something called the "Dreadnought hoax," which involved a group of people (her, her brother a
Quentin Bell had the benefit of knowing his subject, which is rare in a biographer. As a result there is a veracity to this book, something of a counterweight to balance Virginia Woolf's own biographical writings. Extracts of Virginia's writing sear the pages where they appear and she can't help but steal the show, but even so this is a sympathetic work which seems to treat the subject fairly. Virginia's brilliance and genius are celebrated. The pain of her mental sickness and the difficulties t ...more
hope mohammed
السيرة الذاتية للكاتبة فيرجينيا بقلم ابن اختها بيل كونتين ...
هي سيرة من اروع كتب السير واطولها واشملها ...
تكلم هنا عن فيرجينيا الاخت والفتاة والزوجةوالخاله والانثى التي تعاني والقارئة المتعطشة دوما للكتب والكاتبة التي لاتبرح يدها القلم..
الكتاب طويل يقع في اكثر من سبعمائة صفحه لكنه ممتع حتى تنسى معه عدد الصفحات ومقدار الوقت المتبقى ..وايضا فيه تأريخ لحيات الكاتبة بعد انتهاء الكتاب وصور شخصيات المهمة في الكتاب والتي أثرت في حياة الكاتبة بشكل من الاشكال..وهذا اكثر ماحببت في الكتاب ..
خاتمة السيرة
Pradeep Badatiya
Awestruck by her last letter:
Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am sp
This book changed my perceptions of myself and my cultural values. I confess that I read it straight through one weekend when I was living alone in North Hollywood while I waa studying for my MFA at Cal Arts.
Greta tra le righe
Non avrei mai pensato di trovare così interessante una biografia. E invece è vero, queste pagine scivolano via proprio come se si stesse leggendo un romanzo: un romanzo narrato da un uomo forse un po' petulante e compiaciuto, ma pur sempre un romanzo interessante.
Questa biografia ci dà la possibilità di camminare assieme a Virginia Woolf, di vederla crescere da ragazzina insicura e piena di timidezza fino a diventare la fragile ma grandissima scrittrice che tanto ha dato al mondo della letteratu
I am sorely, sorely tempted to give this five stars. Terrifically solid stuff - so well-executed that it is almost perfection.
Despite being a faithful accounting of Woolf’s life with much useful information for Virginia Woolf fans, I did not get what I wanted most from Quentin Bell’s book. After reading Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, I was fascinated by the observant, insightful mind that so clearly saw into itself and the minds of others to create such nuanced and genuine characters. The person I found in this biography was a self-centered, difficult and periodically psychotic woman whose friends all recognized ...more
I don't read a lot of biographies of writers since they so really give insight to the art. While I found this also true here, the book is still quite fascinating. The times she lived, the people she lived among, and the ways she lived and traveled are all very illuminating about her time and place. It's like our own lives, but different. What time they had for socializing and traveling! And still got so much work done! To maintain households, hold down jobs, write scores of letters, and still de ...more
Mary L.
"Virginia Woolf: A Biography"is written by Virginia Woolf's nephew, Quentin Bell, son of Virginia's sister, Vanessa Bell. If you want a wonderful and captivating description of the Bloomsberry group by all means head straight for Quentin Bell's biograpy. It is beautifully written, filled with wonderfully full descriptions of life as a member of the English literary society of the day. There are also a large set of photographs illustrating life in London and at Charleston Farm rented by Vanessa ...more
Ashlee Reed
Fascinating insight...however peculiar. You would think a biography written by Virginia's nephew would lend itself to some deeper understanding of this woman and her life. However, one gets the impression while reading this that Mr. Bell cannot be objective and skims and glosses over major themes and events in Virginia's life (her lovers, her female friends, and even her death).

If, however, you are looking to know everything about Bloomsbury group and how each member took their tea - this is fo
Beatrice Marie
Oct 03, 2011 Beatrice Marie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Virginia Woolf nuts
You have to be a Virginia Woolf nut to even think of reading this book. It's over four hundred pages long in small print. I hesitated between giving it two or three stars. Its strong point are her nephew's encylopedic comments on her life. Who did she see? When? Where? The weak point is sometimes there was too much of "she did this with so-and-so" -- almost a Facebook of her life without enough comment on why she did what she did. Perhaps he wanted to remain objective? I did give it three points ...more
Josephine Ensign
Extremely detailed (and long) biography, but was a surprisingly easy and engaging read. This is a good companion/background work (in two volumes) to my current stint of reading (and re-reading) all of Virginia Woolf's oeuvre.She remains one of my all-time favorite authors and she fascinates me.
In my opinion, Virginia Woolf, by her nature, would seem to be an elusive subject for a biography. She was so very much a singular, inscrutable being. The source material of her life and personality are, to a certain extent, well-documented in her extensive journals and correspondence. Quentin Bell's achievement in this book is to bring a coherence to this material that gives the reader as intimate a portrait of Mrs. Woolf as can be created by a biographer. The fact of Mr. Bell being the nephew ...more
A fine biography - straightforward, chronological - though a bit removed from the action, despite the fact that the author was the subject's nephew. There's a light, bumbling sort of way he describes things - that he isn't interested in getting too close to the thick of it all (unlike Hermione Lee who may go a bit too far). Still it's concise and gives a decent overview of the major events of Woolf's life, and her difficulties in writing each of her novels and essay collections. I think that the ...more
Elizabeth Olsen
I am sort of fascinated with Virginia Woolf. She seems odd and other worldly in the loveliest way. But to be honest I most wanted to learn about her sordid home life as a child. This book is unintentionally funny, not giving up the 'sick stuff that happened' goods though. However if you ever want to read gossip about what happened to V.W.'s great great great aunt who lived in India and is described by the author as "her person was pleasing, her manners courtly, her tastes extravagant and her hor ...more
A very good biography because it is easy to read (despite words like pullulate and inchoate) and gives the reader VW as a rounded person, neither mad, sad, nor bad, but a mix of many things.
My only problem is that QB was probably too close to be entirely objective, although he tries, and so she might be painted with either too kind or too stern a brush.
Ironically Vanessa Bell, his mother, appears cold and snobbish.
It does make me want to read more of VW's books and another, possibly more object
Who knew Virginia Woolf was such a slut?!
Fantastic book- interesting from a literary, historical, and psychological perspective. Virginia Woolf was hanging out with some pretty interesting people who pushed the envelope of Victorian morality. One of the most intriguing parts for me was learning about Virginia's manic-depressive illness and how it affected her writing. My only regret was that I was so invested in all the characters, that when Virginia dies at the end, I was left hanging- not knowing what became of all the people in her ...more
D.A. Gray
One of the better, most thorough biographies I've read anywhere. The prose is easy to digest, provides detailed events that stack up well against Woolf's own journal entries and provide great insight into Bloomsbury along with many of Woolf's own characters who have their inspiration in the Stephen family. Not only captured the life of Virginia but provides insight into the upper middle class, and the intellectual and artistic circles of England over a 40 year period.
Mária S.
A lovely book written by her nephew, Quentin Bell. It leads us to a wonderful voyage since Virginias early years till her suicide in 1941. We can see how her personality and talent develloped and so did the mental disease, through the years. Although fragile and depressive, Woolf never gave up and followed her destiny of being a primorous and original author, and an icon of her genre in the literary world. I strongly recomend this book to all Virginia`s readers. ...more
Outdated. If you want the most up to date Biography of Virginia Woolf, check out the one by Hermione Lee. There are certain sections of this biography that really angered me. At one point Bell states that Woolf's claim that she was sexually abused as a child is either false or exaggerated. There really is no reason I can think of to believe that, especially when she has described the encounters herself in her own autobiographical writing.
Not only did I absolutely love learning about Virginia Woolf's personal, every day life (written by a family member none-the-less!) I also enjoyed how the book captured an era so different from today. It made me appreciate the insights Viriginia Woolf has made in her writing that ring so clear today I feel as if she could read my mind. She truly is an author that transcends time and has captured something innately human in her writing.
I didn't expect anything from this book but learning a little bit more about her life. I don't usually write reviews, but since she's my favorite writer I thought thanking Quentin in 'public' for doing such an intimate work and letting me know about the things she loved was not a bad idea. I loved it, I loved reading pieces of her own diary and that of others, because I now feel that I am, somehow, a part of her world too.
After seeing the recent Bloomsbury exhibit at Northwestern, I dragged this old QPB edition off the shelf to reread. The style is a bit ponderous compared to what we are used to in these times of dwindling attention spans, but Woolf and her circle led interesting lives in a time of great social upheaval. Now I have literally read this book to pieces, since the old binding dried up and split.
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