ADELINE by Norah Vincent


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Virginia Woolf’s haunted descent into the River Ouse in 1941 is re-created here in a tale of the author’s tortured last years.

Vincent (Thy Neighbor, 2012, etc.) re-creates the world of the fabled Bloomsbury group, emphasizing the years bookended by Woolf’s triumphant release of To the Lighthouse and the later, less well-received The Years. The spectral presence of Adeline, Woolf’s childlike alter ego, who bears the name Virginia was given at birth, engages Woolf throughout the novel and accompanies her at moments marked by great insight and great pain. In dense prose, Vincent foreshadows Woolf’s ultimate demise in myriad ways with references to rocks, water, milk, and the psychiatric woes of both the painter Dora Carrington (Lytton Strachey’s companion) and Vivien Eliot (T.S. Eliot’s estranged wife). Woolf’s ultimate acceptance, or actually embrace, of her fate is detailed meticulously in the endgame conversation between the soul-sick, world-weary author and the internist from whom her desperate husband, Leonard, has sought help. Hovering in the background, much like Adeline, is Woolf’s struggle with the problem of truth-telling when there is no truth to be had, only interpretation.

Readers in search of a crash course on the Bloomsbury circle and the machinations of Woolf’s fevered mind will appreciate Vincent’s attempts to illuminate both, but her dark portrait of Woolf's agonizing journey through a life marked by psychic pain will hold the most appeal for those already familiar with this sad story of genius and madness.

Pub Date: April 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-544-47020-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2015


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