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Virginia Woolf (Penguin Lives)

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  540 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
This biography of Virginia Woolf is unusual. It is written by someone who knew her well when he was a child. Although short, it gives the key moments, the key traits and the key ideas that have made her life so continuously fascinating to new generations. At the same time it provides a firm record of her literary achievement.
Hardcover, 165 pages
Published September 14th 2000 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (first published January 1st 2000)
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I should have just read Hermione Lee's biography. Nicolson is a son of Vita Sackville-West, as he never tires of telling us, and milks his moments with Woolf, and his mother's connection, for all they're worth. He spends far more time on Vita than Woolf's husband Leonard or sister Vanessa, which I felt a rather poor choice.

Nicolson provides a good deal of information about her inner life--his time spent editing her letters was well spent. But he clearly disagrees with Woolf's opinions, and spen
Dec 23, 2015 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. Very interesting, but I think the author of this was definitely biased on certain things.
Rachel Terry
Aug 03, 2015 Rachel Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Particularly enjoyed Woolf's opinions about Americans.
Feb 16, 2009 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is well written, an easy read, and informative. It's not as scholarly, footnoted, or even-handed as I would have liked. It seems like Nicolson has some axes to grind in his portrait of Woolf.
Feb 19, 2008 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was pretty interesting, but I really don't like this writer. Any time he mentioned VW's feminist writings, he was really dismissive. Incidentally, he is Vita Sackville-West's son, and actually knew Virginia Woolf, so he has a lot of anecdotes to tell from the point of view of an adolescent.
Remarkable woman.
Nicolson's account has got me interested in the Bloomsbury group.
Also, it's about time I finally dust off my copy of Orlando.
Polly Summers
Oct 07, 2014 Polly Summers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I quite liked this had a deeper insight into Virginia Woolf's life as the author, Nigel, knew her through his mother Vita. However I would have enjoyed it even more if there was more mention of her family. While there was plenty on Vita, Virginia's close friend (and sometimes lover) I wanted to know more about Virginia's husband Leonard, and her siblings Vanessa and Adrian. That would have made this book even better and I feel like I could understand Virginia if I knew more about her c ...more
Iiris Onerva
Kind of lifeless and occasionally clumsy.

Nicolson seems most concerned with "correcting" or "proving wrong" opinions that he doesn't agree with - whether VW's and other Bloomsburians or other biographers and scholars. He criticizes the subjective interpretations of other biographers or scholars but never acknowledges his own subjectivity. Meanwhile, doesn't seem to grasp that opinions are indeed subjective (and not, as mentioned, something to be corrected). Also doesn't seem to understand the co
Amanda McDougle
Feb 06, 2013 Amanda McDougle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nigel Nicolson's first hand experience of knowing Virginia Woolf provides an in-depth account on the life of this daughter, sister, wife, lover, and writer. For Woolf, writing is the equivalent of raising a child. From creation, she molds stories based on the people who are active in her life at the time. Each writing is hand-written in the mornings and then typed up and edited by Woolf in the afternoons. The evening hours are spent hand-writing journal entries and letters to friends, family mem ...more
Beth Ann
May 02, 2016 Beth Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, authors
It was said that the difference between Bloomsbury and Cambridge was that at Cambridge nothing witty was said unless it was also profound and at Bloomsbury nothing profound was said unless it was also witty.
~Nigel Nicolson in Virginia Woolf
Stephanie Marie
Oct 08, 2012 Stephanie Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grad-schoolery, woolf
I come to all Woolf biographies with a non-judgmental approach; I know there will always be some angle or bias that fires some readers up-- but I'm such a whore for all things Woolf, I'll eagerly read any take on her life and works and consume it with a grain of salt. This might not be the most objective view of her life; obviously Nicholson had a unique take on Woolf as Vita Sackville-West's son. But I loved the intimate stories about Virginia. I loved the quotes and pictures. I appreciated ano ...more
Mar 03, 2016 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Nigel Nicolson, the author of this biography, knew Virginia Woolf as a child. He was the son of Vita Sackville-West, who was Virginia Woolf’s most intimate friend, and for a short time her lover. Vita was a novelist in her own right, winning the Hawthornden Prize in 1927 and 1933.
Kurze leichte Biographie über Woolf vom Sohn Vita Sackville-West’s, die zeitweise Woolfs Geliebte war. Beschrieben werden Familie und Bloomsbury-Kreis, der Entstehungsprozess mancher Werke, insbesondere Orlando. Dabei ist das Bild, das Nicolson zeichnet nicht immer positiv, wenn auch verständnisvoll: Virginia hatte Vorurteile gegen Ausländer und Juden, ihre feministisch-pazifistischen Ansichten entbehren manchmal jeder Grundlage und für Politik hat sie sich nie interessiert. Dennoch ein Buch, da ...more
Sep 18, 2011 Jesse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. I found myself alternately in love with Woolf, and viciously annoyed with her. What a truly remarkable woman. This being my introduction to Woolf as a person, (and I have as yet read none of her works), I don't know if there were any mistakes or controversial claims or the like. All I know is that I finished this short biography feeling as though I understood, if only slightly, an enormously complex and bewitching human being with whom I felt, whilst reading, woefully aligned.
A pretty goood Penguin Lives literary biography from someone who knows as much as there is to know about Virginia Woolf. Fortunately, he doesn't cram it all in this book, as the series is intended to be introductions-summaries-overviews, not the last word on a life. Nicolson's book made me interested enough to want to read some of Virginia Woolf's work, though I haven't followed through yet (too much great non-fiction out there to read, tomodachis!).
Sílvia Vieira da silva
A very pleasant surprise!
Feb 09, 2016 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting perspective on V. Woolf by someone who knew her from (his) childhood. Nicolson is the son of Vita Sackville-West, Virginia's longtime friend and sometime lover. The author has made use of personal memory, extensive letters between V.W. and V.S-W. and many others, as well as other biographies of V.W. , especially that written by her brother-in-law, Clive Bell (Vanessa's husband). Terrific portrait.
Jun 26, 2009 Vivencio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
you couldn't get more personal than this slim volume written by the son of virginia's one time lover, vita sackville-west. none of the usual feminist cant on this one; significantly debunks the subject's supposed molestation by her half brother. even in vignettes, it gives a good impressionist picture of the tangled lives of the bloomsbury group
May 04, 2009 Gregg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
An easy riff through Woolf's life: sexual affairs take a back seat to her inner struggles, literary output and travels abroad. I don't think, after reading this, Woolf would have much use for a guy like me, but she'd definitely put up with a visitor, and then stick me in one of her books for revenge.
Virginia Woolf is a fascinating person, and this biography comes from the interesting perspective Nigel Nicolson, who knew Virginia when she was alive and whose mother was one of Virginia's lovers. I found the book to start off slow, but it picked up pace as it went on.
Apr 24, 2015 Willem rated it it was ok
Sep 25, 2007 Mosker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy these lives books, they're just fulfilling enough to make me want to research more about the subject. In this case, I was quite relieved that the author did not attempt to hide his personal opinions as accepted scholarship or conventional wisdom.
Apr 08, 2010 Paddy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wandered outside my fiction preference since this was one of the few books available to check out on CD from my library. Glad I listened to it, I might have skimmed it otherwise. I learned much more about the many happinesses in Woolf's life.
Jul 30, 2012 Sini rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aihe, eli Virginia Woolf, oli todella mielenkiintoinen ja traaginen. Ikävä kyllä kirjailija ei ollut kummoinen joten teksti oli sekavaa ja analyysit ontuvia. Teki tehtävänsä eli haluan lukea rouvan kirjoja lähitulevaisuudessa.
Nov 30, 2013 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book that looks the personal life of one of the world's greatest authors. It explores her life, her loves both men and women, and the darkness of her battles with mental disease. A very good book.
Dianne Lange
Fine as an overview and documentation of the Bloomsbury crowd but not particularly good at capturing V.W. I'm putting H. Lee's bio on my to-read list. Most reviewers say it's the better bio.
Oct 16, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written by the son of Vita Sackville-West, this slender volume doesn't really give any new information about the author, but would be a good introduction for someone unfamiliar.
Dec 26, 2013 Sophie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting but fairly brief biography of Virginia Woolf, by Vita Sackfield-West's son.
Ruth Glen
I was interested in knowing more,after reading Orlando. Nigel Nicolson had meet her as a boy and had memories of her.
Nov 15, 2012 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
GOt from Mom's big book giveaway. Interesting. I have never read The Waveor the Years and think I should.
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  • Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life
  • Leonard Woolf: A Biography
  • Virginia Woolf: A Biography
  • Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury
  • The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume Three: 1925-1930
  • Marcel Proust
  • The Letters of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf
  • Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Life
  • Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell
  • Charles Dickens
  • Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Violet to Vita: The Letters of Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West, 1910-1921
  • The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys

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