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Virginia Woolf And Vanessa Bell: A Very Close Conspiracy Paperback – 1 Feb 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (1 Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860498515
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860498510
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.9 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 196,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Dunn is a leading biographer, the author of 'Moon in Eclipse: A Life of Mary Shelley', 'A Very Close Conspiracy: Vanessa Bell and Virginia Wolf', and 'Antonia White: A Life'. 'Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens' was published in the spring of 2003 and spent seven weeks in the top ten of the Sunday Times bestseller list. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Dunn lives near Bath with her husband, the linguist and writer Nicholas Ostler. Her most recent book is 'Read My Heart'.

Product Description

Review

An outstanding work, and reading it is a source of real pleasure ... one of the best books on Virginia Woolf to date (LITERARY REVIEW)

Her unlayering of this complex relationship is subtle and far-reaching ...The wealth of the material makes possible some of the brilliant equations to be found in this book (SUNDAY TIMES)

Dunn plunges deep beneath the surface to the complicated emotions and personalities of these two women, illuminating them with great clarity and understanding. (OBSERVER)

Jane Dunn's astute account of their relationship is a revealing pleasure. (INDEPENDENT)

Book Description

* A moving and important book on the relationship between two remarkable sisters who jointly created the Bloomsbury Group

* 'It is almost too true and too moving to be read by a close relation' Quentin Bell


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 July 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As the title implies, this is not so much a biography, as a book looking at the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. The author examines the girls childhood, where they were given a rudimentary education and were expected to become practised in the "feminine accomplishments of music, dancing and presiding over the tea table." In fact, all that was necessary for the "great adventure of marriage and motherhood". Their mother certainly idolised her sons and saw men as more important, to be deferred to and valued above women. She also had a caustic and difficult side, which both girls seem to have overlooked in their desperation for her attention and Virginia was shocked in later years when a friend criticised a photograph of her mother. On the death of their mother and their half sister Stella, Vanessa was the eldest female in the family and responsible for the household, a role she seems to have clung to, however unwillingly, throughout her life.

Perhaps the role as mother figure helped Vanessa in a household which disregarded her interest and talent in art. Both Virginia and Vanessa resented their lack of education, but Virginia's early interest in writing was more acceptable in a family of writers, whereas art was less valued. Vanessa found herself compared unfavourably to Virginia, while her art was neither cherished or valued, but seen as a feminine 'hobby'. However, it was Virginia who wrote to her sister, "I can never believe that you approve of me in any way, strange as it may seem" and Virginia who craved her sisters love and approval throughout her life.

On the death of their father, the girls set up home elsewhere, with their brothers Thoby and Adrian.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By cathy earnshaw on 10 Jun 2010
Format: Paperback
Jane Dunn - biographer of Mary Shelley, Antonia White, and more recently Elizabeth I & Mary Queen of Scots - has written an exceptionally absorbing account of the sibling relationship between the author Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) and the painter Vanessa Bell (1879-1961).

I found it fascinating to learn more about their mother Julia Stephen who tends to be something of a cipher in books related to Woolf and Bell, partly because her death in 1895 meant that she left their lives early. The tragedy of her death - when Virginia was 13 and Vanessa just short of 16 - provoked different reactions in the sisters: Vanessa, who identified more strongly with her mother and was already known for her practicality and good sense, "became increasingly sensible and self-contained" (36). Virginia, who experienced more ambivalent feelings towards her mother, felt painfully defenceless in the aftermath - "Her death was the greatest disaster that could happen", she wrote - and looked even more strongly to her elder sister to provide emotional stability and direction.

In contrast to the quiet intimacy of the sisters, the anguish of their father Leslie Stephen, for whom not only some members of his family but also Jane Dunn seems to have little patience, was "self-centred, self-pitying and noisy" (35). In a damning summary, Dunn zooms in on the crux of his difficult character - his "greed for female sympathy and blindness to his own tyranny" (43).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By P. GRESWELL on 2 Nov 2011
Format: Paperback
I've read little about the relationships within the Stephens family. Virginia and Vanessa had difficult and often sad lives and their many losses through the death of family members brought them closer together as sisters. They supported each other through thick and thin and you cannot understand either of them without knowing something about the other. Vanessa bore more of the burden of family responsibility especially when it came to running the household and pandering to the demands of their self centred father. One always thinks of Virginia as the sensitive vulnerable one but Vanessa was strong because she had to be and just as fragile as her sister. I will read Virginia Woolf's novels with a different insight after reading this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Vivian Darkbloom on 28 Jun 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The profound emotional bond that links the two sisters is told in a masterly fashion. The book is Informative, insightful and richly rewarding.
I finished the book marvelling at the skill in which the author had managed to recreate the personalities of the two sisters and their love for each other. A truly outstanding biography of two great creative artists and their circle.
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