Would that I ever have friends who remember me so fondly and keenly, and with so much respect.
Of course not everything here is essential or even enligWould that I ever have friends who remember me so fondly and keenly, and with so much respect.
Of course not everything here is essential or even enlightening, but there's enough truly beautiful stuff to make it worthwhile -- Plomer, E.M. Forster, Spender, Isherwood, Angus Davidson. Louie Mayer's selection -- she was their cook/housekeeper until Leonard died -- is particularly touching.
And even in the negligible pieces there are some solid gold anecdotes. Leonard recounting the story of when Henry James came to tea when VW was young, and tipped over backwards in his chair, and still finished his sentence from the floor? Genius. Anything about the exchanges between VW and Walpole? Genius....more
Given the potential in the subject matter, this was really not very well-written at all. Fabulous pictures, some truly interesting anecdotes I hadn'tGiven the potential in the subject matter, this was really not very well-written at all. Fabulous pictures, some truly interesting anecdotes I hadn't yet heard about via other sources, but lousy writing. So disappointing.
It reads like a competent but otherwise uninspiring English essay -- you know how, in high school or thereabouts, the style with essays is to make a point at the beginning of the paper and then re-hash it again in different words for the conclusion? And continue doing so on a smaller scale for each paragraph? It's like that. Dunn makes the same points over and over again, sometimes only pages apart, without taking the opportunity to go much deeper. Which is a shame, really, because I think there really are some valuable insights in the material -- reading this book as a sibling and an older sister myself gave me a few things to think about -- but they got obfuscated by her tendency to simplify the material to its very basics and say that Vanessa was the lush sexual hyper-maternal magisterial one and Virginia totally wasn't. Repeatedly.
(She also seems to distrust the reader's ability to remember the basics of the girls' lives: if I had to read, for example, the phrase "her half-brother George" one more time I was going to start taking hostages. WE KNOW HE'S THEIR HALF-BROTHER YOU CAN JUST CALL HIM GEORGE JESUS LADY.)
This did interest me enough that I decided to commit to someday reading Frances Spalding's full biography of Vanessa, though. Both of my contrasting urges to give her a hug and punch her in the face during the Duncan Duncan Duncan Roger Duncan! chapters got so strong that I just -- feel compelled to try to figure out what the eff she was thinking. So aggravating and so sad.
Of the five blurbs on the back cover, three are from people who knew VW and VB personally (Angelica, Nigel Nicolson, and Quentin), and they're all unusually laudatory -- Angelica's claims that the book "allows her to believe that the author knew both her mother and her aunt" and Quentin's says "It is almost too true and too moving to be read by a close relation." Which means something, I guess, because clearly I'm a sucker for these people -- I feel like my impulse to say "Imagine how they would have felt if someone better had handled the material" is kind of tacky under the circumstances -- although it doesn't really raise the book in my estimation at all. (Which is interesting, because you know that if, say, Frieda Hughes had written that shit it totally would.)...more
Brilliantly funny in places, but -- censored! Lines cut out all over the place. Which is understandable considering the date of publication, but all tBrilliantly funny in places, but -- censored! Lines cut out all over the place. Which is understandable considering the date of publication, but all the same, that sort of thing drives me batty. I'm looking forward to the unexpurgated versions that -- I hope! -- are in VW's complete Letters....more