My Virginia Woolf reading experiences have been piecemeal. Do you know the very first Woolf novel I read was thanks to a crush on a guy when I was in college? (His mother was an English professor and he was a self-confessed fan of all things Virginia Woolf). The guy was promptly discarded, but I kept Virginia Woolf (definitely the best deal). I've read (though in most cases not written about properly) a number of her books: The Voyage Out, To the Lighthouse (the "crush" book), Mrs. Dalloway (twice), Night and Day, some of her essays and short stories and most recently Jacob's Room.
I think she will forever intimidate me (just a little bit anyway), though Flush ended up being a very easy read and quite delightful (though certainly had more to it than first meets the eye). I add to my knowledge various facets of her life and personality from a variety of sources, so it seems only fitting that now I am getting an entirely different view of her through a novel written by her husband Leonard Woolf, The Wise Virgins.
I'm just preparing to begin reading but have decided it might not be amiss to read the preface before diving in. It often enriches the reading experience knowing just a little bit more (at least with classics--sometimes I prefer not knowing anything at all about a story before starting). In this case the book is somewhat biographical as Camilla, the protagonist, is meant to be a portrait of Virginia whom Leonard had recently married. He began writing the novel while on their honeymoon in Spain in 1912.
"Harry, studying art meets Camilla in a London studio, and Camilla consents to sit for a portrait. Harry's pursuit of her elusive character awakens him to a kind of love he has never known. How should he reconcile this romantic love with a man's sexual nature?"
"Would sexual union and other demands of marriage damage the possibilities of a gifted woman's singleness and freedom?"
What I know about the Woolfs's marriage is sketchy, but it seems that I read they had a very close and nurturing relationship (as I read through the preface perhaps more light will be shed on it). The questions and observations that Lyndall Gordon raises in her introduction (both quotes above are from the preface) certainly help put things in perspective--setting the scene and putting the novel into just the right historical and social framework.
As I've not started reading the story yet, I am going to use one of the excerpts Gordon provides in her introduction for a taste of things to come:
"There's so much marriage from which I recoil [Camilla tells Harry]. It seems to shut women up and out. I won't be tied to the pettiness and the conventionalities of life. There must be some way out. One must live one's own life . . . "
I'm looking forward to reading this and have been thinking that it might be fun to choose yet another companion read (to keep the momentum going). So I wonder which book by Woolf I should pick up next that would make a good pairing with Leonard's book? A first read or reread (as she is someone I could easily reread and surely get more out of with each go). I would love to begin reading her diaries, too, but I have toyed with that idea for ages. Any suggestions? And would anyone like to read along with me (to help keep on task?).