Memoirs of a Novelist by Virginia Woolf


This is a slim volume of five of Virginia Woolf’s earliest stories, offering glimpses of the themes and style to come in her later work.

It is a fairly diverse collection, but each story is beautifully drawn and will live on in your mind long after reading.

Phyllis and Rosamond are two of five Victorian sisters. They have been brought up in the expectation that they will marry. There is talk of love, but their place in society is paramount – a good marriage will give them freedom from their family, their own households and a role that they understand. A simple story, but it whets the appetite for what is to come.

The Mysterious Case of Miss V is the story of one of many London society ladies. She attends tea parties, concerts and functions and she always dresses and behaves appropriately, but this conformity serves only to render her invisible. Nobody notices that she is no longer there, that she has been sick and that she has died. This is more a fragment than a short story, but it is a particulary beautiful fragment that rings true.

The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn is by far the longest story in this collection. The narrator, Miss Merridew, is an academic studying the history of land tenure in mediaeval England and building a picture of what life was like then. While travelling through Norfolk visits an old house in the hope of finding more documents to further her research. And she does – masses of them. One document is a diary and in it is recorded the daily life of Joan Martyn, dating back the 15th century. She writes of her impending marriage and her daily life, but much more is going on around her. But while the owner will allow her to study the documents them he will not sell. Miss Merridew wants to build an objective history while he values his own family story. Different approaches to history …..

A Dialogue Upon Mount Pentelicus follows six Englishman on a trip, with local guides, to the mountain of the title. Are they tourists or are they visitors? The distinction is important! There are hints of satire as Woolf makes fun of her protagonists without ever losing her wonderful evocation of the land in which they travel.

Memoirs of a Novelist provides a thought provoking ending to this collection. Miss Willat is the titular novelist and her friend Miss Linsett is her biographer. Miss Willat did not want her life made public, but her friend persuaded her that she should write her biography. Rather than just telling the tale, this story reports on the biography and its writing. And so questions are asked, about the roles of writers of both fact and fiction.

A lovely collection!

Library Loot


Library Loot is a weekly event hosted by Eva and Alessandra to share the library books we find each week.

I have 4 new books on my library pile:


The Ice Princess by Camilla Låckberg

Swedish crime writers seem to be everywhere at the moment! This was recommended to me and it looks really good.


25 Bags to Knit by Emma King

I have never knitted a bag before, but this book has inspired me. I’ve counted up and I want to knit 16 of the 25 !!!


A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

This is lined up as my first historical novel of the year. The Princes in the Tower from the point of view of their mother’s family. I’ve read a lot of good things about this book.


The London Scene by Virginia Woolf

A lovely little book of esays about London. I moved out of London a few years ago and I didn’t miss it (save shops, galleries and friends) until I picked this book up.

Library Loot


Library Loot is a new weekly event hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair to share the library books we find each week. It’s a wonderful idea. I am a lifelong library lover and I am lucky enough to be a member of a private subsription library as well as having a good public library service.

Here are my latest five finds:



The Red House Mystery by A A Milne is a 1920s mystery that I didn’t know existed until I spotted this lovely little volume in the library.

Knights of Love by Jane Tozer is a new Cornish interpretation of The Lais of Marie de France.

Memoirs of A Novelist by Virginia Woolf is a slim volume of early short stories, ourtesy of the wonderful Hesperus Classics.

Renoir, my Father by Jean Renoir is a family memoir for my Art History Reading Challenge.

Books, Baguettes and Books by Jeremy Mercer is another memoir, in this case of a bookish nature.

Decades ’09 Challenge


The Decades ’09 Challenge is being hosted by Michelle here.

The rules are:

  1. Read a minimum of 9 books in 9 consecutive decades in ‘09.
  2. Books published in the 2000’s do not count.
  3. Titles may be cross-posted with any other challenge.
  4. You may change your list at any time.

This is going to suit me well. I love reading books from different periods and reading a book from each year of the 20th century will help me towards my long term goal of having a list of 100 book that I have read and recommend for each year of the 20th century.

It may well change, but here is my initial list, one for each decade of the 20th century.

  • The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1909)
  • The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf (1915)
  • The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey (1929)
  • Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann(1932)
  • Doreen by Barbara Noble(1946)
  • Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (1952)
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson(1966)
  • Mrs palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971)
  • The Juniper Tree by Barbara Comyns(1985)
  • Symposium by Muriel Spark (1999)

Eight are from my TBR and one is a book that I have been looking for a good excuse to buy!