Why Virginia Woolf’s Orlando speaks to gender fluidity today

Published in The FT August 22, 2019

“It is enough for us to state the simple fact; Orlando was a man till the age of 30; when he became a woman and has remained so ever since.” Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando was published in 1928, yet contains an expression of gender fluidity that feels as fresh and matter of fact as if it were written today.

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The art of the ménage à trois

Published in BBC Culture on November 7, 2018

Brangelina, Kimye, Hiddleswift… you could be forgiven for thinking the celebrity portmanteau name was an invention of the 21st Century. But today’s creative couples surely have nothing on the delightful ‘PaJaMa’: an amalgam of Paul Cadmas, Jared French and Margaret French, to reflect the interdependence of their relationship and artistic practice. From 1937 on, they lived as a polyamorous trio for 20 years. Continue reading “The art of the ménage à trois”

Review: Mrs Dalloway, Arcola

Published in Time Out on October 2, 2018

Adapting Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel – set over one day in London, as Clarissa Dalloway prepares to throw a party – is always likely to be tricky. Its stream-of-consciousness style swirls together shifting impressions of the present and reflections on the past, and Woolf switches between the interior monologues of a whole host of characters beside Mrs D. Continue reading “Review: Mrs Dalloway, Arcola”

Life in Squares: does the Bloomsbury group drama go far enough?

Published in The Independent on Sunday on July 26, 2015

Within the first five minutes of Life in Squares, the BBC’s major new drama about the Bloomsbury Group, two corsets are ripped off – and summarily chucked out of a window with a cry of “freedom!” It’s a statement of intent from sisters Vanessa and Virginia Stephens, a literal throwing off of restrictive Victorian convention, before they became the beating heart of the bohemian social circle of artists and thinkers named after the London neighbourhood in which they lived in the early 20th century. Continue reading “Life in Squares: does the Bloomsbury group drama go far enough?”

Virginia Woolf should live on, but not because of her death

Published in The Guardian on May 27, 2015

Virginia Woolf may be famous for her death – she drowned herself in 1941 – but she is enjoying an uncommonly busy afterlife. A seemingly unending stream of novels, plays and films seek to re-animate her, fictionalising Woolf’s life – and death. And it ripples out: her wider circle, the Bloomsbury group, are also regularly brought back to life for our entertainment. Continue reading “Virginia Woolf should live on, but not because of her death”

Review: Adeline – a Novel of Virginia Woolf, Norah Vincent

Published in The Independent on Sunday on April 5, 2015

In the life of Virginia Woolf – and her friends, lovers and rivals – Norah Vincent has rich, if frequently plundered, source material. Bloomsbury’s tangled, talented lives provoke as much interest as their art, and this is at least the third novel about Woolf in the past year.

Written elegantly in rather Woolfian free indirect style, and with spiky, erudite dialogue, Vincent’s portraits are grounded in thick historical research. In truth, Adeline groans with it – would these people really spell out the importance of friends’ (now-famous) books or enumerate their (now-infamous) sexual histories in conversation? Vincent is, however, assured enough to do a rare thing: to really ventriloquise Woolf on the topic of her work and creative imagination. Continue reading “Review: Adeline – a Novel of Virginia Woolf, Norah Vincent”