Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf: A Review

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

adelineI’m a huge fan of Virginia Woolf. I’ve written about it here before, and I’m always finding new quotes of hers to love; the most recent one is “Arrange whatever pieces come your way.” Which is why I was very excited to hear about a new book, Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf, written by Norah Vincent. Adeline is a dark and compelling story about Woolf’s life and creative process.

Woolf’s real name was Adeline, and in this novel, Adeline is Virginia’s “other,” and accompanies her through memories and writing; the former making the latter extremely difficult at times. This is a psychological examination of Woolf from a whole new angle, and the result is fractured and jarring- perhaps exactly how Woolf felt.

My love of Woolf has made me highly protective of what I read of her, but this didn’t disappoint. The nuances with which Vincent writes – and it’s clear she’s done her research – made it feel like Woolf was there on the page, letting the reader into her psyche, confessing the things she was most ashamed or private about – no easy feat. The book allows Woolf to be developed as a woman, not just an artist, which is what makes this so different from any other book I’ve read about her. Is she always likable? No, but that’s precisely why the reader ends up wishing she could talk with Woolf.

Adeline is heavy stuff. It’s not an easy read, and if I read too much at one time, I found myself feeling very bogged down, which is perhaps the point, as we all know how Woolf’s story ends. But it is worth it, to walk with Virginia for a while.

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