While being transported to and from snow-filled Anchorage, in an improbable silver tube 35,000 feet above the earth, I had one of those ‘what would VW think?’ moments – my ears full of Mozart and mind full of London and Sussex. One of the highlights of a wintry trip to Anchorage a week ago was the three-hour flight each way. Really – because of Alexandra Harris’s book “Virginia Woolf.”
In her foreword, Harris calls her book “a first port of call for those new to Woolf” – “an enticement to read more.” The book really works for that purpose – it is a captivating introduction to this so-special person. For someone who knows Woolf well, it’s a reminder of the pleasures – the everyday, treasures that fill Woolf’s novels, diaries, essays, and letters – and of the complicated people and relationships that animated Bloomsbury.
Harris’s book felt like a 200-page tour of those years when I read so much of VW’s life and work. The narrative is chronological and lively, Harris pauses to discuss a book in just enough detail to make you want to read or re-read. It captures what have always been my favorite things about Woolf – her belief in the solace of work, the necessity of work, and her curiosity about everyday details.
It’s a slim, beautiful book also – honoring bookmaking with thick paper, a ribbon place marker, and the perfect number of photos of all the important people and places.
I hope it’s under lots of Christmas trees.