An insightful, witty look at Virginia Woolf through the lens of the extraordinary women closest to her.
How did Adeline Virginia Stephen become the great writer Virginia Woolf? Acclaimed biographer Gillian Gill tells the stories of the women whose legacies—of strength, style, and creativity—shaped Woolf’s path to the radical writing that inspires so many today.
Gill casts back to Woolf’s French-Anglo-Indian maternal great-grandmother, Thérèse de L’Etang, whose aristocratic elegance and unconventional style passed mysteriously down through generations of the family’s women. And she paints Woolf’s eccentric and empathetic aunt Anne Thackeray Ritchie, who gave Woolf, as a young girl, her first vision of a successful female writer. Yet it was the women in her own family circle who had the most complex and lasting effect on Woolf. Her mother, Julia, and sisters Stella, Laura, and Vanessa were all, like Woolf herself, but in different ways, warped by the male-dominated, repressed Kensington household they lived in. Finally, Gill shifts the lens onto the famous Bloomsbury group—where Woolf found her freedom and her voice—and shows how she transformed a group of men, united in their love for one another and their disregard for women, into a society of creative equals.