Adeline: Book summary and reviews of Adeline by Norah Vincent

Adeline

A Novel of Virginia Woolf

by Norah Vincent

Adeline by Norah Vincent X
Adeline by Norah Vincent
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2015
    288 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

From a New York Times best-selling author, a boldly imagined portrait of Virginia Woolf that sheds new light on the events that preceded her fatal immersion in the River Ouse in 1941

On April 18, 1941, twenty-two days after Virginia Woolf went for a walk near her weekend house in Sussex and never returned, her body was reclaimed from the River Ouse. Norah Vincent's Adeline reimagines the events that brought Woolf to the riverbank, offering us a denouement worthy of its protagonist.

With poetic precision and psychological acuity, Vincent channels Virginia and Leonard Woolf, T. S. and Vivienne Eliot, Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington, laying bare their genius and their blind spots, their achievements and their failings, from the inside out. And haunting every page is Adeline, the name given to Virginia Stephen at birth, which becomes the source of Virginia's greatest consolation, and her greatest torment.

Intellectually and emotionally disarming, Adeline—a vibrant portrait of Woolf and her social circle, the infamous Bloomsbury Group, and a window into the darkness that both inspired and doomed them all—is a masterpiece in its own right by one of our most brilliant and daring writers.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Skillfully rendered and emotionally insightful." - Publisher's Weekly

"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." - Kirkus

"Adeline is an intimate portrait of a sister, a wife, a woman, and most importantly, an artist. In this vivid, deeply moving novel, Vincent brings us beyond the world of legend directly into the passions, the struggles, the ambitions and finally the genius that is Virginia Woolf." - Alison Smith, author of Name all the Animals

"Adeline deftly walks the fine line between story and scholarship---an entirely fresh reading of Woolf's work, brought alive by a writer of considerable imagination, insight, and skill." - Marya Hornbacher, author of Wasted and Madness

"Spare, exacting, deeply imagined, Adeline brings us as close as we are likely to get to the secret negotiations that fed Woolf's art." - Kathleen Hill, author of Who Occupies This House

"Adeline is a singular feat of the creative imagination in which the reader is taken inside the consciousness of a major artist in a way that is both completely believable and commandingly compelling. It is wholly worthy of its great subject." - Terry Teachout, author of Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

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Reader Reviews

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RebeccaR

Struggling to Review This
I am glad that I read this book, but it was neither an "easy read" or one that was easy to rate. The fact that I found some of the characters' personalities disturbing at times made me settle on a 4 rating since I feel that author has done his or her job if the reader feels a response. This is probably not a book for people to select for entertainment or the average book club since many of the characters seem to be somewhat tortured souls at times (half sister ends up in an asylum, awkward "friendships" that seem more like competitions) and not being able -or willing- to live openly as they truly are (gay and lesbian or bi with the public persona of being monogamous, heterosexual married couples.)

I thought I knew a little about Virginia Woolf when I selected the book, but as I read it, I quickly realized I actually only knew her name, titles of her famous works and where/when she lived. I had a lot to learn, and that part is enjoyable - even though the details of Virgina's life aren't happy. There seemed to be an insinuation that her half brother George abused her, and she denigrates even her husband, Leonard. I found myself wondering what ever brought this couple together.

I was a little confused at first as to whether Virginia's comments were Adeline's (after she adopted the name Virgina) or the words of her namesake. I think (but am not sure without rereading the book) that sometimes it was both of the Virginias. I also found myself stopping as I read and making a few notations on things I wanted to research: why did Virgina send the insulting blank-page book to Vita Sackville, a woman with whom Virgina had an affair although Vita went on to marry a man, and is there more information on T.S. Eliot's wife, Vivien? (She doesn't seem too likeable, yet Virgina and Leonard seem to count this couple among their supposed friends.) An unexpected plus to reading this book is that suddenly T.S. Eliot's famous poem "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" made a little more sense to me. But that sensibility is not a happy one. There is a reference to this very poem on page 178 of the book, Adeline. I also knew nothing about the Steinach Operation until I had read this book. So, the book was quite a learning experience, although the lives of the people often seemed depressing. The author truly captured the mental turmoil and debilitating feelings of depression with her descriptions, such as this passage for a dress that Virgina wore over and over : a "wad on the floor... threadbare, seldom washed, grubby with use" so that even her husband complained of its smell. That is actually quite powerful writing, so I commend the author for that.

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Author Information

Norah Vincent Author Biography

Photo: Michele Asselin

Norah Vincent is the New York Times bestselling author of Self-Made Man, as well as three other books, including Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf . Formerly an op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times, she has also contributed regularly to Salon, The Advocate, and The Village Voice. She lives in New York City.

Author Interview
Link to Norah Vincent's Website

Other books by Norah Vincent at BookBrowse
  • Self-Made Man jacket
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