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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to write a great diary....
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...
Published on 21 Mar. 2010 by JuliaC

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No index - not suitable for students.
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...
Published on 25 Nov. 2011 by Matt


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to write a great diary...., 21 Mar. 2010
By 
JuliaC "Julia Coulton" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Selected Diaries (Paperback)
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. We are taken though the First World War Armistice, the General Strike, the rise of Hitler and the death of King George V followed by her own take on the abdication crisis, all of which make compelling reading.

And of course she lets us in on the world of the Bloomsbury set, with their endless round of lunches, dinners, parties and discussions. It really must have been a fascinating existence to have almost daily conversations and debates with such luminaries as T.S. Eliot (who gave them a reading of his new poem - The Wasteland), E.M. Forster, Vita Sackville West, and Maynard Keynes to name but a few. To have such access to and friendships with writers, politicians, economists must have been very exhilarating. But often Virginia is simply exhausted with the endless social whirl of it all - preferring instead to beat a hasty retreat to her beloved house in the country.

Her relationship with her husband Leonard is obviously central to her being, although she doesn't go into their more intimate dealings, save to mention once early on in their marriage that `some antics ended the day.' It is clear though that as time goes on she totally relies on his support, and especially his criticism of her literary works as she finishes each one. If Leonard feels they are up to standard then she is palpably relieved.

And the process of writing does seem from these diaries to have been an arduous and exhausting one for Virginia. `Few people can be so tortured by writing as I am' she complains to her diary companion. Each work seems to sap the strength from her literally. She was a very frail creature, beset by nervous breakdown, depression, headaches and influenza throughout the nearly 30 year period which these diaries span.

And you do get the sense that keeping a diary helped her get through many of her trials and tribulations, except of course, it did not save her from committing suicide at the end of the period she was keeping it. Earlier on the diary is witty and light in many places, but as it hurtles towards the inevitable conclusion it becomes a much sadder affair.

She did not reckon much to Manchester when she visited in 1921 with its streets all the same, and dowdy depressed looking women, and not a scrap of romance. I will even forgive her this southern prejudice for having given us such an entertaining, informative and sumptuous peek into her world - with all its highs and lows. If you want to find out the secrets of keeping a great diary - look no further than Virginia - she would have been a keen blogger I am absolutely sure.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insights, 6 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Selected Diaries (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly page turning, 30 April 2010
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Selected Diaries (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing experience, 1 Dec. 2008
This review is from: Selected Diaries (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
2.0 out of 5 stars No index - not suitable for students., 25 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Selected Diaries (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Small print, 28 Oct. 2012
By 
Mr. RB FORTUNE-WOOD "Rowan" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Selected Diaries (Paperback)
My review does not reflect the writing, but rather I want to make the point that both Virginia Woolf and her readers deserve better than this print size. And to the obvious objection vis-à-vis the amount of text and the limits of paperback editions, it would have been preferable to publish it in two volumes or on the kindle. The italicised sections (not too irregular) are almost illegible. Moreover, the absence of an index makes it unusable for all purposes but skimming. Vintage ought to be ashamed.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compulsive read, 4 Jan. 2010
By 
allii "mansfield" (Derbyshire,England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Selected Diaries (Paperback)
A fascinating and compulsive read.The tiny print is almost off putting,especially the tiny italic print which previews the events of the year but nevertheless the subject matter transcends this.An unforgettable read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The real Virginia, 22 Jan. 2010
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This review is from: Selected Diaries (Paperback)
Loses a star for the painfully small print; I don't normally have any difficulty reading, and I don't wear reading glasses, but I struggled with this typeface and see from other comments that I'm not the only one.

But it was worth persevering because the diaries brought VW to life and I realised she wasn't the woman I was expecting. (Who would have thought that, at least sometimes, she longed for children - can you imagine VW with children?) To be honest, some of it is humdrum stuff - even famous writers go through dull patches - and for pages on end, I got tired of lists of visitors' names. (Why did she suffer them, when they distracted her from her writing ... one of the things I realised is that Virginia was far more socially conventional than I had imagined.) On the other hand, look at the people who visited/were visited: TS Eliot really comes alive; Katherine Mansfield, what a spiky jealous relationship they had; Thomas Hardy and HG Wells; and how funny VW is about the busybody, do-gooding Webbs.

And sometimes she describes something so succinctly, it takes your breath away: people's clothes, appearance, their irritating tablemanners. Sometimes it is strangers who have caught her eye, as when dining at the Cafe Royal in 1919 : 'A woman of doubtful character dining alone with a man threw her glass on the floor, made a great rattle of knives and plates, upset the mustard pot and marched out like an indignant turkey cock. Was this moment, with the eyes of the diners upon her, what repaid her? Was it for this that she protested? Anyhow she left her man very crestfallen, trying to appear nonchalant; and I daresay that was what she wanted. I couldn't help thinking of the dreary scene in the flat next morning - the tears, the recriminations, the reconciliation- and next Sunday they'll dine, I suppose, at another restaurant.'
What powers of observation ... down to the mustard pot! and the scene recorded almost as mini-novel in itself.

And of Ottoline Morrell, in just one sentence: 'I walked with her in the downpour to Oxford Street, she buying me crimson carnations, without cordiality.'
Or this, in 1917: 'Tea at Spikings, with some of the upper classes; who looked like pet dogs threatened with a cold bath. They were talking of the scarcity of motor cars.'

By the way, if you find yourself frustrated reading about all her bickerings with Nelly, her cook, over so many years - because the diaries don't really explain what drives them so mad with each other, at least not in this edition - do read the excellent Mrs Woolf and the Servants by Alison Little. Very good on what a pain VW must have been to work for; and the insecurity of life as a servant.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Finding the author behind the books, 19 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Selected Diaries (Paperback)
When I think about this book the importance of autobiographical books comes in to mind. I could also say that it is a very well spread phenomenon in last century's literature.
These autobiographies, plain ones or masked under the shadow of different names but admitted to be autobiographical, somehow invite you to read the rest so to say, the previous works of the authors with a specific eye. This eye is one that after reading a biography, seeks to find in all the books the encrypted, the untold things that we already know. We somehow look for the already known but this time it is not our already known, but theirs.
I feel that people unconsciously look for themselves everywhere, and want to reflect themselves in art. But after reading autobiographical works, when we read earlier books by the same author, we somehow seek to find the self of the author in the book, to look for something like a lost character.

This selection of diaries has given me great insight on the author I already enjoyed reading, bringing me closer to her, in an intimate way.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected joy, 1 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Selected Diaries (Paperback)
I have never read a Virgina Woolf novel and I probably never shall. However I was prompted to read the Diaries after a BBC4 programme. They are marvellous. To my surprise they are unpretentious and indeed poke mild fun at the whole idea of Bloomsbury. Famous authors come and go but without any sense of Virginia Woolf name-dropping. Her descriptions of people are superb:a diner having the "table manners of a well bred hen"; "Kingsley Martin dined with us sweeping up turkey like a char sweeps up feathers"; "H G Wells has learnt nothing from Proust - his book is like the British Museum. One knows there are delightful interesting things in it but one doesn't go there". Her tribulations with her housekeeper are very funny. A real treat.
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Selected Diaries
Selected Diaries by Virginia Woolf (Paperback - 4 Sept. 2008)
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