Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Are You Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in Richmond. I have been reading Virginia Woolf's a Sketch of the Past, from the book Moments of Being, a collection of her auobiographical writings. This is the second time I have tried to read Woolf, and as it is one of the set texts for a module I'm studying as part of my degree, I knew this time I would have to persevere. But until the last few days I have been looking at it as a mountain to climb- one that I was hopeful of appreciating the view, once I reached the top.

I've just drafted a review of this piece of writing, which does not come near to doing it justice. I never got 'it' before, with Virginia Woolf, never watched that film with Nicole Kidman, gave up reading Mrs Dalloway after three attempts. Decided it wasn't for me.

I will find the tiniest reason to go to Richmond as it is. I lived there for several years as a child and it is overlaid with memories which stretch right up to last week when I had a stroll along the river and visited Ham House gardens for the first time in over 30 years.

My reason for going yesterday was ostensibly to sit and read Woolf 'in situ'. Just an excuse really but I've known for ages that she started the Hogarth Press there with her husband Leonard, where TS Eliot's The Wasteland was first published. She lived there from 1915 to 1924. So I went and stood outside Hogarth House and tried to imagine it without the brutalist architecture nearby, and to tried to guess which route Woolf would have favoured to get to the river or the Green.

Her writing, once you get into the clause-ridden and heavily punctuated sentences (which become quite addictive to read after a while) is astonishing in its clarity and depth. The intensity with which she evokes her childhood in all its facets is unlike anything I've encountered before. Powerful stuff and deeply moving. I will definitely read more.

Worth the climb.


  1. You have inspired me to have another go myself. I've always enjoyed reading about her and then stumbled when reading her stuff. What a good idea to start at Hogarth House...I think I'd like to start at Charleston or Bloomsbury...!

  2. I always struggled with Woolf and to be honest, gave up many years ago. I doubt that I'd want to go back, but maybe I should give her another bash.