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Virginia Woolf

Alexandra Harris

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An accessible introduction to a writer whose work is of timeless significance and whose courageous life and tragic death are continuing sources of fascination, by the winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2010


This gripping account offers an ideal introduction to both the life and work of Virginia Woolf. It considers each of Woolf’s novels in context, traces the contentious course of her ‘afterlife’, and shows why, seventy years after her death, Virginia Woolf continues to haunt and inspire us.

In 1907, when she was twenty-five and not yet a published novelist, Virginia Stephen had everything still to prove. She felt herself to be at a crossroads: ‘I shall be miserable, or happy; a wordy sentimental creature, or a writer of such English as shall one day burn the pages.’

Today her prose is still blazing; perhaps it burns brighter than ever. For this is the story of how a determined young woman with a notebook became one of the greatest writers of all time. It is a story that sparkles with wit and friendship, language and love, wicked jokes and passionate appreciation of ordinary things. Hers was a life lived with intensity from moment to moment and shaped into the lasting patterns of art. It was also a courageous life, defiant of convention and marred by mental illness.

This book shows why, over seventy years after her death, Virginia Woolf continues to haunt and inspire us.

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'Harris tells the story crisply and with personality, and the book is beautifully produced by Thames & Hudson’'

'A wonderfully perceptive, unpretentious study which is pacy in style, riveting in content and perfectly accessible to the most obdurate Woolf-avoider … by the final page Harris has made you desperate to tackle the novels, to get stuck in and to submerge yourself in Woolf’s unmistakable, wholly original and imaginative responses to the world'
Daily Mail

'The critical evaluations of Woolf’s novels are elegant and searching … an ideal introduction'
Financial Times

'A masterclass in the art of slimming down scholarship without dumbing it down … armed with the insights from this most enjoyable text, I can’t wait to go back to the novels and try again'
Sussex Life

'A miracle of clarity and concision'
Washington Post

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 21.5 x 13.5 cm

Extent: 192 pp

Illustrations: 46

Publication date: 19 September 2011

ISBN: 9780500515921

Contents List

Foreword • 1. Victorians (1882–1895) • 2. Getting Through (1896–1904) 3. Setting Up (1905–1915) • 4. Making a Mark (1916–1922) • 5. ‘Drawn on and on’ (1923–1925) • 6. ‘This is It’ (1925–1927) • 7. A Writer’s Holiday (1927–1928) • 8. Voices (1929–1931) 9. The Argument of Art (1934–1938) • 10. Sussex (1938–1941) • Afterwards

About the Author

Alexandra Harris studied at Oxford and at the Courtauld Institute in London, and worked at Christie's for a year before returning to Oxford to write a doctorate on art and literature in the 1930s. She is now a lecturer in English at the University of Liverpool, running courses on Modernism and American writing, and leading the MA in Contemporary Literature. Her first full-length book, Romantic Moderns, was the winner of the 2010 Guardian First Book Award. Alexandra Harris was also a winner in the BBC's 'New Generation Thinkers' contest in 2011.