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Selected Diaries Paperback – 4 Sep 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; 1st Edition edition (4 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099518252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099518259
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Virginia Woolf is now recognized as a major twentieth-century author, a great novelist and essayist and a key figure in literary history as a feminist and a modernist. Born in 1882, she was the daughter of the editor and critic Leslie Stephen, and suffered a traumatic adolescence after the deaths of her mother, in 1895, and her step-sister Stella, in 1897, leaving her subject to breakdowns for the rest of her life. Her father died in 1904 and two years later her favourite brother Thoby died suddenly of typhoid.

With her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, she was drawn into the company of writers and artists such as Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, later known as the Bloomsbury Group. Among them she met Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912, and together they founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, which was to publish the work of T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and Katherine Mansfield as well as the earliest translations of Freud. Woolf lived an energetic life among friends and family, reviewing and writing, and dividing her time between London and the Sussex Downs. In 1941, fearing another attack of mental illness, she drowned herself.

Her first novel, The Voyage Out, appeared in 1915, and she then worked through the transitional Night and Day (1919) to the highly experimental and impressionistic Jacob's Room (1922). From then on her fiction became a series of brilliant and extraordinarily varied experiments, each one searching for a fresh way of presenting the relationship between individual lives and the forces of society and history. She was particularly concerned with women's experience, not only in her novels but also in her essays and her two books of feminist polemic, A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938).

Her major novels include Mrs Dalloway (1925), the historical fantasy Orlando (1928), written for Vita Sackville-West, the extraordinarily poetic vision of The Waves (1931), the family saga of The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941). All these are published by Penguin, as are her Diaries, Volumes I-V, and selections from her essays and short stories.


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Review

"Her nephew Quentin Bell claims that the thirty volumes of Woolf's diary are a masterpiece.Anne Olivier Bell has reduced them to a single volume. It think it is still a masterpiece" (A.S. Byatt Evening Standard)

"One of the glories of our literature" (Paul Levy)

"She made portraits exact, more clairvoyant, more living than those of any writer I know" (P.N. Furbank)

"A work of the highest imaginative genius, with powers of perception and description unexampled in our time" (Isaiah Berlin)

"More alive than most living voices" (Claire Tomalin)

Book Description

A moving, perceptive and beautifully written insight into the workings of the mind of one of the best loved and most admired writers of the twentieth century.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Alba on 6 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback
I've always thought VW much misunderstood and this volume confirms it. It's a brilliantly condensed version of the full diaries, with helpful footnotes, and is ravishingly, fascinatingly wide ranging, gossipy and modern. She comes across as entirely the antithesis of the aesthetically aloof, snobbish and odd creature she's been painted. I grant that some of her fiction doesn't help. If only she'd lived beyond 1941. It's interesting to see, apropos of the suicide, that it wasn't just her fears about another bout of 'madness' that lay behind her quite sudden decision (and it was sudden - there's no real hint of what's coming and her last entry, on the day, is as full of plans as any other, ending with the gnomic remark that Leonard is doing the rhododendrons). There are also dark hints that the fear of the coming nazi invasion are working powerfully on her mind, and the prospect of what that would mean to Leonard. The great treat of these diaries, aside from the casual - and because they are contemporary, wholly artless - mentions of tea with TS Eliot and the like - is the amiable and confiding and casual tone of the entries. They're more like emails from a friend than any other writerly diaries I've ever read. And there are passages about the writer's life, the life of a writer, the compulsiveness of it, the method, the frustrations and the fears of reviewers, that are inspiringly fresh and vivid. Read this, and then the essay collection, and then the letters. And then read To The Lighthouse, and The Waves....
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 April 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a reader friendly version of the six or seven complete volumes of Woolf's diaries that came out in the Nineteen Eighties. It has been edited down and compiled thoughtfully and with love, and with a full explanation at the beginning of what was to be left in and why. It's still a weighty tome, but my goodness it is an enjoyable one. Woolf had a great eye for capturing the details of her life and the sublime and the ridiculous are juxtaposted in marvellous contrast in these pages. Her quarrels with her servants, her glittering social life, her fears and understanding of her own weaknesses. She writes exquisitely and I was hooked from the first. I think I enjoyed these better than the published novels to be honest. There is a companion piece to this in the shape of the edited letters and after I finished the last page of the diaries, in which she notes that Leonard is dealing with the rhododendrons, just before she fills her pockets with stones and drowns herself, I felt so bereft that I immediately ordered the letters as well.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By JuliaC VINE VOICE on 21 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I know I don't usually review older books without good reason here, but I have been pondering of late what makes a good diary, in this age of blogging and Twitter, and wondered if a celebrated diarist such as Virginia Woolf held any clues for our modern budding writers.

I should also state from the outset that I am not a particular fan of Woolf's work, having only read a couple of her novels in my teens, and not really been tempted back for more since. But after taking up this edited selection of her copious diaries, I soon discovered that that did not really matter. I thoroughly enjoyed this window on her world, and found it a very good pointer as to what really makes a great diary/tweet/blog.

The first of her secrets is to include the domestic, trivial, and mundane detail that at the time must have seemed fairly inconsequential. But for me it is these small details that add a rich depth to the writing, and often hint at the historical context which is so much more fascinating when viewed from the perspective of someone actually living though it, than reading a historical account after the fact. The relationship Woolf had with her live in cook of 18 years, Nellie, is one of the domestic highlights. Both women seem to comfortably fit the title of `drama queen' - with countless stormings out and promised sackings, followed by inevitable regrets and forgiveness. Woolf does not seem to have been particularly nice to her servants, but then she was an affluent writer living a very comfortable existence once her career had taken off. Her attitude was probably perfectly normal for her time and class, not that that makes it any better.

And the way she recounts the historical detail is superb, interlaced as it is with the minutia of her life.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra on 1 Dec. 2008
Format: Paperback
Amazing book. Very precise, witty and sometimes wistful descriptions of people, places, feelings. The essence of what was thought to be Bloomsbury at the time, I believe. Highly recommend for anyone interested in diary writing or in Bloomsbury and modern English literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Matt on 25 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
Although a valuable insight into the habits of a writer and a fascinating 'behind the scenes' of her brilliant work (plus a nosey account of her private life for those that way inclined), this edition isn't suitable for students or anyone wanting to dip in and out of Woolf's diary entries according to the writing they comment on or the life events they document: the index only lists the names of the people that Woolf writes about, not her works, places, suggesting that Vintage are here more interested in documenting the social life of Woolf the celebrity rather than Woolf the writer. Stick to Leonard Woolf's original (and slimmer) 'A Writer's Diary', or the multiple volumes of complete diaries if your library stocks it.
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