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South Riding (VMC)
South Riding (VMC)
by Winifred Holtby
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy Endurance in Obscurity, 14 Jun. 2015
This review is from: South Riding (VMC) (Paperback)
Feckless blacksmith's daughter made good, Sarah Burton returns as a headmistress to the coastal Yorkshire of her youth, resolved to inspire her girls to "Take what you want" and to "Question everything". It is a time of change, with the old social order of rural life breaking down and a growing division between town and country. The depression of the 1930s is combining with the aftermath of the First World War and hints of the rise of Hitler and Mussolini to destabilise the world in the next major conflict.

Sarah's progressive ideas and desire for modern, well-equipped school buildings are at odds with the values of the traditional, stubborn yet honourable and charismatic local landowner Robert Calne. Yet this proves to be much more than a sentimental romance or soap opera, rather the moving and in-depth portrayal of a community which Winifred Holtby understood partly through growing up as a Yorkshire farmer's daughter but also through her mother's accounts of working as the first woman councillor for the East Riding, embellished by her unwise habit of leaving council meeting minutes screwed up in her waste-paper bin. The resultant storyline of corruption and speculation over land deals, the achievement of the desirable "ends" of building decent council housing by questionable means, so alarmed Winifred's mother that she obstructed publication of "South Riding" until after her daughter's untimely death.

The author's knowledge of her own imminent death gives "South Riding" an edge. She does not flinch from "killing off" characters and revealing the hardship in a world that predates the NHS, social work safety net and compulsory secondary education for girls under sixteen. Yet the book is saved from mawkish sorrow by the lively dialogues, striking descriptions, wry humour and realism of the narrative, with wonderful anecdotes from some of the characters.

At over five hundred pages, it may seem rather long, but the plus side is that the reader can become immersed in the characters' lives. This deserves to be called a "classic" with its hints of Thomas Hardy's Wessex, "Under Milkwood", George Eliot's "Middlemarch" and Arnold Bennett's "Five Towns", with the drama switched to the East Yorkshire wolds, crumbling cliffs, dramatic sunsets and constant presence of the sea. The story is all the more powerful and authentic for having been written during the period to which it relates. Winifred Holtby shows great prescience in sensing "the way things were going" and some issues, such as recession, the venality and self-interest of politicians, the uncertainty of life and the "sturdy endurance in obscurity" of ordinary people still resonate today.


Ida [DVD]
Ida [DVD]
Dvd ~ Agata Kulesza
Price: £5.75

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Avoiding the truth, 8 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Ida [DVD] (DVD)
Demure, unaware of her sexual appeal, eighteen-year old Ida is about to take her vows as a nun. Brought to the convent as an orphan, she knows nothing of life in the outside world. The Mother Superior insists that Ida visits her sole remaining relative, who turns out to be a chain-smoking, hard-drinking, promiscuous and clearly embittered Communist woman judge. Ida is introduced abruptly to a corrupt, secular world, lightened by the lure of soulful jazz, dancing and handsome band players. She also learns about how her parents died, with all this symbolises of the dark side of recent Polish history. Will she be destroyed by these new experiences? Can she return to life as a nun?

Visually slow-paced, in what may be an East European tradition, yet covering events in brief fragments, this provides what seems to be an authentic picture of Poland in the early `60s, the black-and-white photography adding to the impression of general poverty and contradictions of a strongly rural, Catholic society under an imposed atheist Communist regime. The film exposes some of the unresolved conflicts in a troubled, occupied post-war country.

This subtle film, which reveals its story gradually, deserves the praise it has attracted, even if the ending is initially disappointing.


Red Love: The Story of an East German Family
Red Love: The Story of an East German Family
by Maxim Leo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Survival in the unreality of Orwellian reality, 3 Jun. 2015
When Maxim Leo and his girlfriend were arrested by the East Berlin police in a final fatuous show of strength before the Wall was opened, she happened to have in her pocket an illegal church newspaper which had been given to Maxim by one of his parents' friends, who had written a piece in it about her reasons for leaving the Communist Party. Maxim was ashamed how quickly he caved in to pressure and "confessed" to all this, although the ultimate irony was that the friend herself turned out to be an informer for the Stasi. It seems that it was hard to avoid being roped into this role - even Maxim's parents almost drifted into performing odd tasks for the Stasi. In another example of the sinister idiocy of the Communist regime, Maxim was denied a place to study for a professional qualification, since his liberal-minded artist father Wolf shouted at his headmistress for allowing machine gun training using live bullets on a school trip to "military camp".

The ludicrous twists of life under a communist regime are legion: on returning from fighting in the German army, Wolf's father Werner makes an arbitrary decision at a tram stop over which line of work to pursue - teaching in a vocational school or stage-set painting: the first tram to arrive takes him east to the teacher training college in the Soviet zone, later blocked off behind the infamous Wall, so he becomes a Communist by chance, this being the best way of "getting on" in the GDR. Maxim's maternal grandfather Gerhard fought for the French resistance in his youth, but opts for life in East Germany because, in his rejection of fascism he convinces himself that communism will create a fairer society. Thus, Gerhard and Werner, who come by very different routes to support the same surreally oppressive and sclerotic system, subject their families to lives of petty restriction and doublethink. It takes Maxim's sensitive, academic mother Anne years to be able to break free psychologically and think for herself. This causes many arguments with her independent-minded husband Wolf. Yet, ironically he finds it much harder to come to terms with freedom when the two Germanies are combined - he seems to feel the need for authority to fight against.

This is a fascinating, wry and often moving account of three generations of an East Berlin family, researched by the author after the fall of the Wall and when it was almost too late to gain first-hand information from his grandparents, who had at least left some written records. Maxim seems to have survived remarkably unscathed mentally by the stress of belonging to an intellectual bourgeois family in a communist regime, perhaps partly because his grandfather Gerhard's status gave him an advantage at times e.g. to get permission to travel abroad, Gerhard's family was in fact relatively quite well off, and, despite all the infighting, Maxim clearly received a good deal of love and attention, particularly from his parents.

My only minor reservation is over what I find to be the irritating tendency to use the "historic present" most of the time. The translator has presumably done this in order to maintain a sense of immediacy as in the original German. Some sentences do not seem to "fit in" to the text, and odd translations such as "fat blanket" for "thick blanket" have already been noted in reviews.


Thérèse Desqueyroux
Thérèse Desqueyroux
by Francois Mauriac
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Trapped, 30 May 2015
This review is from: Thérèse Desqueyroux (Paperback)
Inspired from his youth by the real-life case of Blanche Canaby, accused of the attempted murder of her husband, Mauriac developed the classic tale of Thérèse Desqueyroux, a character who fascinated him so much that she figures in two subsequent novels.

In the opening chapter, the charge of poisoning her husband Bernard is dropped against Thérèse Desqueyroux, after he has lied to "get her off the hook" for the sake of appearances. The rest of this short novel is an exploration of why she committed the crime, and the aftermath of her acquittal. Set in the pine forests of Les Landes near Bordeaux, this is a study of the stifling convention and hypocrisy of bourgeois landowning families in 1920s France. Intelligent and "charming", if not exactly "jolie". Thérèse has passively accepted her lot, which is to marry Bernard, son of the neighbouring family and step-brother of the bosom friend Anne for whom she may harbour more than a schoolgirl crush. Prior to marriage, she is quite attracted to Bernard, with the added appeal of his property to be combined with her inheritance. Too late, she realises the extent of his dullness, growing tendency to over-eating and hypochondria, but perhaps worst of all is the sexual contact for which she has not been prepared - in time, his mere physical presence repels her.

Having recently seen the film version of this novel, starring Audrey Tautou, I was reluctant to read this for a book group: although sympathetic to Thérèse's sense of being trapped, I was alienated by the irrational and excessive nature of her attempt to murder Bernard. Having read the novel, and gained an insight into her thoughts, I continue to regard Thérèse as psychopathic in her coldness, showing a lack of maternal feeling for her daughter Marie, and jealousy towards Anne, stabbing in the heart the photograph of her unsuitable lover and, with an ulterior motive which does not bear close analysis, joining readily in the family plot to separate the pair. When she is driven to contemplate poisoning herself, she is unable to do so, but at least recognises the "monstrous" aspect of this, since she was quite prepared to poison Bernard without compunction.

On the other hand, although I do not think Mauriac adds much to the theme of female repression which has been covered so often - perhaps in part because he finds it hard to get inside a woman's mind - it is the quality of Mauriac's writing in the original French, less so translated into English, which impresses me. I like the way he plays with time, mixing together present situations and fleeting thoughts about the past or future in a kind of stream of consciousness which must have seemed quite radical at the time. His portrayal of the pine forests in changing weather, to which Thérèse can clearly relate better than to people, is striking. He tends to write in emotionally violent terms about overwrought dysfunctional characters tied together by social bonds - the title of his famous "Knot of Vipers" being a good example of this. His bitter, vituperative flow, full of images of walking over the still warm ashes of a landscape one has burnt, being frozen in the immense and uniform ice of an oppressive environment or drowning oneself in the crowds of Paris, holds one's attention, even when having little liking for the characters or even perhaps the author himself.


Thérèse Desqueyroux
Thérèse Desqueyroux
by Francois Mauriac
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Trapped, 30 May 2015
This review is from: Thérèse Desqueyroux (Paperback)
Inspired from his youth by the real-life case of Blanche Canaby, accused of the attempted murder of her husband, Mauriac developed the classic tale of Thérèse Desqueyroux, a character who fascinated him so much that she figures in two subsequent novels.

In the opening chapter, the charge of poisoning her husband Bernard is dropped against Thérèse Desqueyroux, after he has lied to "get her off the hook" for the sake of appearances. The rest of this short novel is an exploration of why she committed the crime, and the aftermath of her acquittal. Set in the pine forests of Les Landes near Bordeaux, this is a study of the stifling convention and hypocrisy of bourgeois landowning families in 1920s France. Intelligent and "charming", if not exactly "jolie". Thérèse has passively accepted her lot, which is to marry Bernard, son of the neighbouring family and step-brother of the bosom friend Anne for whom she may harbour more than a schoolgirl crush. Prior to marriage, she is quite attracted to Bernard, with the added appeal of his property to be combined with her inheritance. Too late, she realises the extent of his dullness, growing tendency to over-eating and hypochondria, but perhaps worst of all is the sexual contact for which she has not been prepared - in time, his mere physical presence repels her.

Having recently seen the film version of this novel, starring Audrey Tautou, I was reluctant to read this for a book group: although sympathetic to Thérèse's sense of being trapped, I was alienated by the irrational and excessive nature of her attempt to murder Bernard. Having read the novel, and gained an insight into her thoughts, I continue to regard Thérèse as psychopathic in her coldness, showing a lack of maternal feeling for her daughter Marie, and jealousy towards Anne, stabbing in the heart the photograph of her unsuitable lover and, with an ulterior motive which does not bear close analysis, joining readily in the family plot to separate the pair. When she is driven to contemplate poisoning herself, she is unable to do so, but at least recognises the "monstrous" aspect of this, since she was quite prepared to poison Bernard without compunction.

On the other hand, although I do not think Mauriac adds much to the theme of female repression which has been covered so often - perhaps in part because he finds it hard to get inside a woman's mind - it is the quality of Mauriac's writing in the original French, less so translated into English, which impresses me. I like the way he plays with time, mixing together present situations and fleeting thoughts about the past or future in a kind of stream of consciousness which must have seemed quite radical at the time. His portrayal of the pine forests in changing weather, to which Thérèse can clearly relate better than to people, is striking. He tends to write in emotionally violent terms about overwrought dysfunctional characters tied together by social bonds - the title of his famous "Knot of Vipers" being a good example of this. His bitter, vituperative flow, full of images of walking over the still warm ashes of a landscape one has burnt, being frozen in the immense and uniform ice of an oppressive environment or drowning oneself in the crowds of Paris, holds one's attention, even when having little liking for the characters or even perhaps the author himself.

This book comes with some useful accompanying analysis and details of Mauriac's life.


I Saw A Man
I Saw A Man
Price: £4.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cause and effect, 29 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: I Saw A Man (Kindle Edition)
Having recently moved to a road overlooking Hampstead Heath, Michael calls on his neighbour Josh to reclaim a tool he has lent him. Surprised to find that the house is empty but the back door left ajar, he enters it on an impulse. This small, chance act triggers an unpredictable but initially devastating chain of events with life-changing consequences.

The cleverly titled, "I saw a man", although it takes a while to understand the significance of this, is a slow-paced psychological thriller by a serious-minded writer interested in exploring the role of cause and effect in our lives, the strength of the will to survive, and how we handle guilt. From the outset, there is a sense of tension and of the need to take note of every mundane detail because it might prove important. Suspense is heightened by the device of switching in alternate chapters between Michael, an intruder in his friends' house, and flashbacks to explain his past life: a few minutes spent in the house therefore expand to an eternity.

What could be a taut structure is slackened by the author's desire to weave in his views on a variety of issues such as the recent banking crisis, the Iraq War and creative writing, including the idea that it is a manipulative process: observing others, "blending in" to gain confidences and exploiting friendships in order use people as models for the putty to be moulded into novels.

In the first chapter I was struck by the occasional poetic phrase - the "nun's head" of a mother coot - in the otherwise plain prose, which led me to discover that the author is also a poet. The narrative is very strong on descriptive detail, as if the work of a scriptwriter, causing me to wonder if Owen Sheers had a film in mind from the outset. There are some powerful passages, but the style often jarred on me. The frequent use of reported events makes for too much "condensed telling". Some metaphors seem inapt, words misused, although this may be intentional, all these factors combining to seem surprising from a Professor of Creative Writing.

I think this book will be popular, and could be adapted as an entertaining TV series or film. It is a page-turner, but marred for me by avoidable lapses into clunky prose and some plot digressions which either detract from the narrative drive, because they lead nowhere, or which seem like missed opportunities for further plot twists, such as the aftermath of Michael's liaison with the young New York hoodlums, Nico and Raoul.


Nora Webster
Nora Webster
by Colm Tóibín
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life goes on, 14 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Nora Webster (Paperback)
This is the detailed and dispassionate portrait of Nora Webster, widowed suddenly in her forties with two young sons to bring up, plus two older daughters who still need a mother's support although they are living away from home at school or university. The story is set in close-knit, convention-bound, small-town coastal Ireland around 1970 where sexual equality was an alien concept, and the troubles brewing over the border in Belfast cast gathering background shadows. An intelligent woman who was prevented by her father's early death from obtaining the college education of which she is capable, Norma is on the surface a dutiful wife and mother, unaccustomed to pleasing herself, but she is capable of sudden decisions which may seem out of character or even a little extreme, perhaps a result of the shock of grief.

Tóibín's plain prose creates scenes and inner thoughts of acute realism which are saved from tedium for me - if not for many other readers - by his skill in the gradual revelation of details. What caused the death of Nora's husband Maurice? What did he do for a living? How will Nora manage for money? How will she cope with a tyrannical office manager who bears a long-held grudge against her? Why does her son Donal begin to behave "out of character" at school? We see how, although superficially "carrying on as usual" all her four children have been affected by their father's death in different ways. Nora herself, although for the most part continuing to fulfil her duties as a parent, and trying to build a new work and social life, often feels that the world around her is unreal, nothing has any meaning and she is adrift, only at ease when avoiding other in the refuge of her own house, or in sleep.

Throughout the book, Tóibín continually primes what seems like the trigger for some dramatic event, only for the tension to drift away, as is often the case in daily life. This may prove disappointing until one accepts that this novel is largely a study of grief, it would seem inspired by the author's own experience of losing his father at an early age. It is also a detailed portrayal of the dynamics and relationships of family life, in which Nora seems always to have been an outsider, her natural self-containment now sharpened by the pain of her loss, although at times she displays great empathy, insight and sardonic humour. Another intriguing aspect is the power of the local gossip grapevine which sometimes reaches the level of farce. Everyone knows Nora's business, or some distorted version of it, culminating in an interfering, it would seem at times telepathic, local nun: it occurred to Norma "that in any other century, Sister Thomas would have been burned as a witch".

Hearing the author give a talk on this book also made me appreciate how much of his work is based on the part of Ireland (round Enniscorthy) where he grew up, a result of his belief that one can only write with authenticity about what one knows, and his fascination with places which people who have never met may experience differently but which all recognise, even long after they have changed.

This is not a depressing book, for it reinforces the essential truth that "time eases pain" although it may not really "heal" , and "life goes on".


Burial Rites
Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Awaiting execution, 11 May 2015
This review is from: Burial Rites (Paperback)
On a visit to Iceland, Australian teenager Hannah Kent became fascinated by the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman to be executed there in 1829. Agnes was convicted with two accomplices of involvement in the brutal double murder of herbalist Natan Kedilsson and his visitor Pétur Jónsson, setting fire to his house in an attempt to conceal the crime. Keen to explore the ambiguity of her guilt, what had shaped Agnes as a person who might commit such a crime yet retain some humanity and evoke sympathy, Hannah Kent went on to research the case in depth for a PhD which included a creative novel on the subject, leading to the publication of this bestseller, “Burial Rites”. I liked the way in which imagined scenes are interspersed with documentary evidence.

My first attempt to read this book failed as I found many of the characters somewhat two-dimensional and written too much in the same “voice”, the dialogue stilted, the prose often overblown. Much of the book is quite slow-paced and repetitive, continually reinforcing the bleak detail. Forcing myself to finish it for a book group, my main reservation became that too many events are told statically, rather than shown dramatically, through the device of Agnes relating them to a third party. I accept that this could reflect the oral tradition of relating Icelandic sagas over interminable dark winter evenings. It also raises the intriguing question as to her reliability as a witness. However, the storyline, which is quite well-developed as regards Agnes’s relationship with the ailing wife and two contrasting sisters at the farm to which she is sent pending her final sentence and execution, becomes fragmented and confusing as regards the events leading up to the final crime. Again, this could be intentional as regards suggesting ambiguity.

My conclusion is that Hannah Kent is an enthusiastic researcher rather than a talented writer, so that the main interest lies in the detailed portrayal of the harsh life in northern Iceland and social customs of the day. Whereas we now think of Iceland as a sexually liberated country, in the early C19, women farm workers had a raw deal, forced to choose between accepting the advances of their employers or being thrown out to possibly certain death in the bitter weather, at the same time risking the consequences of bastard children or the anger of a farmer’s wife.


Putin Mystique Inside Russia's Power Cult
Putin Mystique Inside Russia's Power Cult
by Anna Arutunyan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.12

3.0 out of 5 stars "A leader only as corrupt as the system that produces him"?, 11 May 2015
A Moscow-based Russian-born journalist who was raised and educated in the States, Anna Arutunyan seems unusually well-placed to interpret Putin’s mystique in a way that Western readers can readily grasp. Although this book contains some fascinating information if you are prepared to make the effort to glean it, I was disappointed to find that the disjointed journalese makes for an often confusing and laborious read.

We are familiar with photographs of a macho Putin displaying his muscular torso as he rides on horseback through the wilderness, or wades in a river to catch salmon, of him diving in the Black Sea to retrieve ancient Greek urns in what proved to be a staged stunt, or co-piloting a plane to dump gallons of water to extinguish a forest fire. This personality cult which began in around 2001 is partly a top down process of which Anna Arutanin provides further examples: Kremlin ideologist Surkov’s organised demonstrations of support by the activist youth group “Nashi” whose members were rewarded with payment or career opportunities; the elaborate charade in which Putin showed his concern for alumina factory workers demanding their pay by berating on film the oligarch Deripaska who had halted production at their workplace. This included forcing him to sign a probably fake contract and even throwing a pen at him, for which humiliation Deripaska was compensated by some massive monetary bail-outs. The author also identifies more spontaneous actions with commerce in mind, such as the “pin-up” calendar showing the twelve moods of Putin or the erotic calendar of obligingly posed girls presented to him for his birthday. Having been groomed by the oligarch Berezovsky to take over as a President who would provide some stability and order after the chaos of Yeltsin’s regime, Putin adapted readily to mirror the kind leader many Russians wanted to look up to.

The Russians have a history of developing a cult round their leaders as a means of keeping control in a vast, often harsh land of scattered and ethnically diverse people. “Russia may never have had the close-knit communities that foster democracy and legal institutions”. So, we see the persistence of a “patrimonial” rather than a legal-rational state. The Tsars were often venerated like gods, with their subjects literally prostrating themselves in their presence; the Stalinist cult was developed by his inner Bolshevik circle before “spilling out” in a nationwide adulation which in a form of "doublethink" was not incompatible with viewing him as a "bloody tyrant".

This book was published too late to cover the shocking murder of the charismatic Boris Nemtsov, but the failure to analyse the recent annexation of the Crimea and the issues raised by the poisoning of Litvinenko, along with the murder of a number of investigative journalists critical of the regime, are glaring omissions. Perhaps there are boundaries the author prefers not to cross: although her portrayal of Putin is negative, precise accusations of a serious nature are avoided and charges often veiled. It is suggested, for instance, that widespread financial corruption and human rights’ violations are often beyond Putin’s control, despite the “myth of his omnipotence”, because they are conducted by people on whom he depends to keep order – as in the case of the Chechnyan strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. In reporting recent middle-class protests against Putin’s “corrupt, authoritarian and self-serving regime”, the author suggests that Putin’s opponent, rising star Navalny has himself shown signs of developing a personality cult, including an aggressive stance and the favouring of questions from supporters, as if this somehow weakens criticisms of “the Putin mystique”.

One of Putin’s reactions to the recent backlash has been to align himself more closely with the Church, a respected institution since its recent revival. This may explain the harsh crackdown on “Pussy Riot”, the girl band who performed their blasphemous anti-Putin ditty in a Moscow Cathedral.


To the Lighthouse (Wordsworth Classics)
To the Lighthouse (Wordsworth Classics)
by Virginia Woolf
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "Think of a kitchen table then when you're not there.", 5 May 2015
Rereading this novel after many years, I have grasped for the first time the brilliance of Virginia Woolf's work. One of the pioneers of "stream of consciousness" writing in the 1920s, she conveys various characters "interior monologues" with great technical skill and poetic beauty streaked with acerbic wit, weaving together the rapid fleeting impressions of their surroundings, appreciation of objects, fragments of memories, shifting perceptions of other people, the tendency to think one thing but say something else. For this reason, a novel which might seem dated retains relevance and the power to move us almost a century later. It reveals in an original way aspects of the relations between men and women, even the meaning of life.

The plot which could be written on the back of a postcard is immaterial, except that the narrative covering two separate days set ten years apart is cut in two by the impact of the First World War, subtly conveyed by the decay of a house on the Isle of Skye, left unvisited for several summers by the Ramsays. They are a cultured Edwardian family, casually taking for granted their privileged place in the world and unaware of how much things are about to change. There are clear autobiographical elements in the story - certainly, the author's sister Vanessa thought that Mrs Ramsay bore an uncanny resemblance to their mother. Still beautiful despite being fifty and the mother of eight, Mrs Ramsay exhausts herself in supervising the servants who do the actual hard labour, in ensuring the comfort of her guests, perhaps with a little match-making thrown in, but most of all in trying always partly in vain to meet the demands of her egotistical, insecure philosopher husband, who continually seeks attention and reassurance that, having reached "Q" he may attain "R" - "What is R?" - and that his work may be remembered. Although also at times troubled by a sense of unfulfilled potential, "But what have I done with my life?", Mrs Ramsay seems to enjoy her lynchpin role, in which she is both admired and resented by others.

A constant factor is the lighthouse (inspired by Godrevy Lighthouse near Talland House in St. Ives, rented by the author's father for his family) which casts its regular, impersonal beam over the bedrooms at night. James Ramsay will probably always remember the disappointment of being unable to visit the lighthouse as a six-year-old when his father's dismissive "It will not be fine" harshly shattered the dreams which his gentle mother had encouraged. Ironically forced by his father to sail to the lighthouse a decade later, the journey has a very different significance.

The narrative flows in a twisted thread which requires total concentration. This is the kind of book to reread for the sheer quality of the prose, and to note how the author moulds language to fit moods and impressions, rather as an artist uses paint - one of the characters being Lily Briscoe who agonises over her pictures much as Virginia Woolf must have done, perhaps also over the written word.

How much more might Virginia Woolf have achieved if manic-depression had not caused her to take her own life at the age of 59? Yet, had they been available, modern medications could have dulled the capacity to achieve her unique streams of consciousness.


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