Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
With an admitted fascination for ``the sources and dynamic of the relationship between Vanessa and Virginia,'' Dunn ( Moon in Eclipse: A Life of Mary Shelley ) takes advantage of the voluminous letters, diaries, family papers and published writings of the Stephen/Woolf/Bell milieu in reconstructing a passionate and competitive sisterhood. Dunn eschews strict chronology to tell the story of the sisters thematically: their roles within the Stephen clan; as appreciative audiences for each other's artistic work; as nurturer and nurtured during family tragedy and Virginia's bouts of mental illness; and as beloved allies and rivals vis-a-vis their husbands, lovers, family and friends. Dunn overemphasizes Vanessa as an embodiment of maternal virtue, in contrast to Virginia's devotion to intellectual achievement, but her detailed portrait of their intimacy more than compensates for inevitable repetition as she develops her themes. This addition to the growing body of work on members of the Bloomsbury group provides a welcome overview and will appeal to readers not familiar with Woolf's life, as well as to her fans. Photos not seen by PW. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
With sensitivity and imagination, Britisher Dunn re-creates the fascination, dependencies, competition. ""complicity,"" jealousies, the whole range of ""dynamics"" expressed in the pathologically close sibling relationship between two beautiful, talented, brilliant, intense, and creative women. Dunn structures her book on how the two sisters responded to the same influences: the death of their idealized mother, of their beloved half-sister who had become her surrogate, and of their brother; the ""household of needy, greedy men,"" including their aging, sickly, self-centered father and their half-brother George, who sexually abused them; their awakening talents and sexuality; their marriages, lovers, Vanessa's children, Virginia's books; the deaths of Virginia's lover Roger Fry and her son Julian, concluding with the suicide of their friend Carrington and then, unexpectedly, of Virginia. Dunn believes that the sisters tacitly divided the world between Virginia's intelligence, articulateness, ""fame,"" and antipathy to sex, and Vanessa's image as love-goddess, self-centered, beloved, fertile, visual, sensual. Using diaries, letters, Virginia's novels, and reports, Dunn anatomizes every incident, motive, and fleeting expression as symptoms of (or compensations for) the losses and afflictions of childhood, leading to inevitable repetition even into the stretch required to find one more term for Vanessa's ""reticence,"" such as ""unloquacious."" Although the opposition is strained and the motives oversimplified, this is a good gossip. Its strength as an inside look, however, is related to its concomitant weakness as the eloquence and passionate involvement become excessive and intrusive, projecting unverifiable feelings and thoughts on characters--and as Dunn manipulates them to meet her hypotheses. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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