Sunday, May 31, 2015

Adeline - Norah Vincent

Sub-title: A Novel of Virginia Woolf

This is the story of the last years of writer Viriginia Woolf's life before her suicide at 41 by drowning. The author, Nora Vincent, was unknown to me though when I researched after finishing the book, I remember hearing of her early work, "Self Made Man" where she had posed as  a man for 18 months in an immersion journalism style of research.

Her research for this book appears extensive as she weaves the lives of Virginia, who's given first name was Adeline, and her Bloomsbury group of intellectuals of the late 1800's into an interpretation of how and why Woolf ended her own life.

I had read and applauded Virginia Woolf's essay A Room of Her Own years ago but had never delved into her other books.  This story makes me want to read more of her writing to see what she produced from a tortured mind.  

Vincent's prose is lyrical, written I'm sure with a thesaurus by her side.  It can be distracting admiring the writing without remembering the flow of the story but not to where I quit reading.  I knew what happened in the end but how the characters got there and what they thought and felt kept me engaged. 

The relationship between Virginia and her former child self, who she refers to by her given first name, Adeline, is a technique that gets a little awkward at points, over-stressing the impact of childhood abuse on the future mood swings of the adult Virginia.  

I enjoyed the book for the beautiful use of words, the portrayal of this famous group of people through believable dialogue and descriptions, and the admiration of the genius of Virginia Woolf.

A couple quotes: 
[Virginia explaining to her husband her thoughts on writing]
"She [Virginia] said that perhaps every writer is meant to express only one idea, one mood, one version of what this strange human experience is about, and that he spends his life and work repeating it over and over.  If he is fortunate, once or twice he gets it absolutely right."

[Virginia contemplating suicide and bemoaning the difficulty of death]
"When a fetus comes alive in the womb," she'd asked, "what tells its heart to start beating?"..."and when it does begin," she'd added..."why then?  Why exactly then and not a moment before or after?" ... "And why cannot death be a painless as that?  Or as timely?  The music simply ending, as it began, without struggle, without knowledge, without thought.  Why must the life be shaken out of us when it has been so softly, so smoothly put in?"

Published: 2015  Read: May 2015  Genre: Biographical fiction

ISBN:  9 780 544 470200

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