Just a short review on some wonderful short fiction.
I have been reading and re-reading Virginia Woolf's novels since my teenage years but, for some reason, I have not until fairly recently read many of her short pieces of writing. This could be because short stories sometimes leave me feeling a little unsatisfied; however this is not the case here and, as stated in the introduction to my edition, these short stories should not be underestimated as sideshows to Woolf's main novels for they are successful works of art in their own right and were crucial elements in the development of Woolf as a writer. I have discovered that the short pieces in this slim volume show many of the same merits as Woolf's novels; they are lyrical and possess the rhythm and beauty we would expect from a writer of her talent and integrity.
To derive the most from these short pieces I would recommend that they are read more than once, so this small book is good for the bedside table - especially with the beautiful cover printed on this particular edition. I think these short pieces would be a good introduction to Virginia Woolf's writing if you have not yet tried the novels and I would also recommend: The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf if you want to delve a little more into the world of Virginia Woolf before embarking on her wonderful full-length fiction. And if you like diaries, do try: A Writer's Diary which is absolutely wonderful.
I purchased this book of short stories, together with 'Among the Bohemians - experiments in living 1900 - 1930' by Virginia Nicholson (Vanessa Bell's granddaughter) as recommended reading for a day course I was attending on The Bloomsbury Group - and I'm so glad I did. If you are unfamiliar with Virgina Woolf's writing, or have, like me, tried one of her novels without engaging with either the book or the author, this may change your mind.
It is a really slim book; just over 100 pages containing fifteen succinct stories such as 'The Mark on the Wall'(8 pages), 'Kew Gardens'(7 pages), 'The String Quarter'(4 pages) & 'Blue and Green'(2 pages). In addition, there is a Biographical Preface, an Introduction, Notes on the text, Select Bibliography, A Chronology of Virginia Woolf and finally, Explanatory Notes, which I found most useful.
These stories quite defy categorization; they are remarkable, quirky and uninhibited, and all seem essential to an understanding of Woolf's development as a writer. These laconic tales and expressions are 'little gems'; works of art in their own right, not merely literary interludes between her novels. And I would definitely suggest a second reading to enhance appreciation of her work.