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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this now!, 2 Sep 2005
By A Customer
With a number of abortive attempts to complete either Mrs Dalloway (1925) or To The Lighthouse (1927) already behind me, it was with some trepidation that I embarked upon the study of Virginia Woolf for my English Literature (1900-1950) paper. Friends raved about her rejection of the traditional narrative form along with her poetic, impressionistic depictions of life. But I yearned for a more traditional narrative structure, or, in short, something that might be labelled "plot".
Failure of this paper looked imminent and inevitable, until a friend recommended this excellent book. Written in a concise, lucid, and highly engaging style, the author provides lively and interesting biographical information, as well as rigorously examining the historical and cultural contexts to Woolf's work. The book also contains a final chapter on the adaptation of Woolf's novels on film and stage, which I found especially helpful in thinking about the interpretation of Woolf's work today.
The author has succeeded admirably in condensing all the key information into just over two hundred pages, making it more than possible for students and interested parties to read the entire book. For those who are more time pressed, or who just need to locate information swiftly for an essay, the author structures the book so as to render it easy to locate relevant information: for example, there are clearly written and well-researched chapters focusing specifically on the literary scene, scientific contexts, and philosophical contexts. I also found the author's chronology of Virginia Woolf (laid out to set events from her life alongside the key historical and cultural background) extremely helpful: this encouraged me to look beyond the confines of individual novels and to obtain a richer picture of Woolf's world.
The book is written at such a level and in such a style that it will more than satisfy both those (like me) whose understanding of Woolf's aims were previously only very superficial (possibly even before embarking on reading her novels) as well as those who are already highly familiar with Woolf and her work, but who are seeking further detail and thought-provoking analysis from a highly-respected critic in this field.
This book captured my interest in Woolf, and convinced me that it was worth struggling with her work. I've now grown not just to appreciate the subtlety and richness of her novels but also to love her work - amazingly, I've also been inspired to read more of it for pleasure!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virginia Woolf in context, 30 Mar 2005
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M. Derek Ferguson (Paris) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book is an ideal way to step into the world of Virginia Woolf. Like many people, I became interested in her works after seeing "The Hours" and read "Mrs Dalloway." I found the novel stimulating and enjoyable but I realised that there was much that I was missing. I then read "The Hours" and the links are fairly obvious but I was interested in knowing more and trying to reach the depths of Woolf's work.
Well, this is the book that did that for me. It gives a detailed background for the Britain that Woolf was brought up in, her family history, the social, philosophical and scientific context that influenced her work.
It laid open many of Woolf's techniques, helped me understand that she was more than just a suicide, made me think about the different personas that we have, how time affects our lives.
I am now encouraged to read more Woolf with the impression that I will understand more, that I will be able to put words to those strange feelings that I have when reading a good novel.
There are many references to Woolf's different novels, taken thematically which help understand specific points. The book is not a complete critique of Woolf's life and work but is not meant to be. It is alos much more accessible than his previous work "Einstein's Wake".
I may well use this book as a kind of companion as I read more Woolf, something to refer to in moments of confusion. The one question that troubles me slightly is would it be better to read all of Woolf before or after this book? I'm not sure, so I'm going to do both.Hey, I've even recommended it to my mother!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very useful book, 28 Nov 2005
By A Customer
I bought this book as a starting point for my paper on Woolf. I'd enjoyed a couple of Woolf's novels already, but had read them pretty uncritically. This book provided me with a helpful overview of the sorts of things that influenced Woolf's writing - I would definitely recommend it to other students beginning to study or thinking about studying Woolf.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read, 6 Oct 2005
By A Customer
I read this when I was in bed recovering from 'flu.
It is an excellent read. I last read Woolf when I was a student in 1972. My memory was hazy. I hoped that this book would ease me back into the types of issues important to Woolf and to her writing. It did the job.
I am now using my new life of leisure to read Woolf's work.
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Virginia Woolf (Authors in Context) (Oxford World's Classics)
Virginia Woolf (Authors in Context) (Oxford World's Classics) by Michael H. Whitworth (Paperback - 23 April 2009)
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