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Virginia Woolf

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  647 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Virginia Woolf's life as part of the avant-garde Bloomsbury Group has captured the imagination of millions. Now Nigel Nicolson, the distinguished son of British writers Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West -- one of Woolf's closest friends and sometime lover -- threads his personal reminiscences through the narrative of her life. In so doing, he paints an astonishing po ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published October 2nd 2000 by Viking Adult (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 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. Very interesting, but I think the author of this was definitely biased on certain things.
nikki karam
Dec 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
(CW: sexual abuse)

I stopped reading this book when Nicolson claimed, on page 13, that the sexual abuse Woolf experienced as a child was no big deal, and that, "Virginia made more of a drama of the affair than the facts justify."

Oh, really? The "facts" he points to are that the Duckworths probably never technically *raped* Woolf, so why all the fuss?, and also that she wrote these two men (her half brothers) letters with affectionate salutations later in life.

Here are some other facts: Nicolson
Feb 09, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Rachel Terry
Aug 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Particularly enjoyed Woolf's opinions about Americans.
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nigel Nicolson was the younger son of Vita Sackville West who was Virginia Woolf’s long-time friend and lover. During his childhood Virginia Woolf was a frequent visitor to the Nicolson family home, and it is Nigel Nicolson’s reminiscences of these childhood encounters that make this such a little gem. This edition also includes some wonderful photographs.

Full review:
Feb 19, 2008 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.
May 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This was a sparse, though solid telling of the writer Virginia Woolf's life, more a synopsis than a full-throttle biography. The author, the son of Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West (Virginia had a love affair with Vita, no spoiler in this non-fiction tale) certainly has his own bias, and his discourses on how Virginia was wrong and women really had every opportunity and advantage men did made me want to argue back in big, black underlined sentences in the margins of this unfortunately bo ...more
Susan Schefflein
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting account of Virginia Woolf's life by someone who knew her.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Virginia lived with a pet marmoset named Mitz.
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Virginia Woolf is a very intimate portrait of the writer, and for that reason I felt obliged to suspect Nigel Nicolson of bias; but then, all biographers are biased one way or the other. Nicolson had the huge advantage of knowing Woolf well as a child, when she was one of his mother Vita Sackville-West's string of lovers--how strange it must have been to grow up as a child of Bloomsbury!

Maybe it's the lapse of time between Woolf's death (1941) and the writing of this biography (1999) or maybe Ni
Amanda McDougle
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Stephanie Marie
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 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
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
Polly Summers
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 21, 2007 rated it liked it
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!).
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Beth Ann
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
May 04, 2009 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.
Nov 30, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
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.
Feb 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: woolf
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.
Sep 25, 2007 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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.
Ruth Glen
Apr 28, 2011 rated it liked it
I was interested in knowing more,after reading Orlando. Nigel Nicolson had meet her as a boy and had memories of her.
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  • Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life
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