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200 × 130 × 17 mm
216 pages
41 illustrations
01 Sep 2016
Critical Lives

Virginia Woolf Ira Nadel

Virginia Woolf was one of the most significant literary figures of the twentieth century, and when she died was perhaps the best-known woman novelist in the English-speaking world. Her distinctive writing style inspired a whole generation of writers while her moving novels, such as Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and Orlando remain hugely influential today. Featuring new details about Woolf’s homes and personal life, this engaging biography offers a fresh insight into her work, focusing on how place as much as imagination fashioned her writing, as well as how the context of her life shaped her her work and artistic ambitions.

Drawing on her letters, journals, diaries, essays and fiction, the book reveals Woolf’s response to her dwellings and surroundings, from the enclosed space of Hyde Park Gate to the open and free-spirited Bloomsbury of Gordon Square. Throughout the book Ira Nadel gives consideration to her technique as a novelist, the skills she learned from reading others, the experimental nature of her fiction and her concern with history, narrative, art and friendship. He discusses her role in the famous Bloomsbury group, her relationship with a series of other fascinating figures including Vita Sackville-West and Lady Ottoline Morrel, her attitude towards sex and marriage, her uncertain social and political views, and the toll of writing upon her state of mind: Woolf suffered from mental illness and breakdowns from a very young age, which eventually led her to commit suicide in 1941 at the age of 59. Accessible, concise yet comprehensive, Virginia Woolf will appeal to the many admirers of this highly influential yet troubled figure.

‘Ira Nadel's Virginia Woolf is a wide-ranging yet succinct treatment of Woolfs life and career, as she experienced and remembered them, and as they appear in diaries, letters, essays, and fictional writings. It comprehensively explores her upbringing and family life, her marriage, friendships, and affairs, her difficult medical history, as well as her relationship to historical events.’ — Alan Friedman, Thaman Professor of English & Comparative Literature, The University of Texas at Austin

‘The integration of place and space into the discussion of Woolf’s writings and biography make for an interesting and informative read, providing avid Woolf readers with a new lens through which to view her works and those less familiar with her work with enough background to get started . . . As a Critical Lives biography. its aim is to provide readers with a broad understanding of her life and work, which this volume admirably docs, and it even manages to dig up some shards for future explorations of her writings’ — Gay and Lesbian Review

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Ira Nadel, Professor of English at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, is the author of biographies of Leonard Cohen, Tom Stoppard and David Mamet, as well as studies of Joyce, Ezra Pound and Modernism.



1. 22 Hyde Park Gate, 1882–1904

2. 46 Gordon Square, 1904–7

3. 29 Fitzroy Square, 1907–11

4. 38 Brunswick Square, 1911–15

5. Hogarth House, 34 Paradise Road, Richmond, 1915–24

6. 52 Tavistock Square, 1924–39

7. Monk’s House I, 1924–37

8. Monk’s House II, 1938–1941





Photo Acknowledgements