Sketches in Pen and Ink

Vanessa Bell, Author
Vanessa Bell, Author Chatto & Windus $22.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-7012-1035-9
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-7126-6603-9
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4464-1214-5
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If the glut of recent books on the subject is any indication, interest in Bloomsbury has hardly abated, and with recent movies such as Orlando or Mrs. Dalloway, it may have increased. This loose collection of seven short essays represents the surviving memoirs of Vanessa Bell, the ""Queen Bee"" of that famous group. An introduction by her daughter, Angelica Garnett, gives us a little background on the author and a lot in the way of an apology: because these essays were originally written for the Memoir Club, which consisted of close friends, Bell had to choose her words carefully. Her reserve shows. Bell strips out the interesting details of her life and leaves only the familiar outline. She virtually ignores her husband, Clive Bell, and her lover, Duncan Grant, and turns her affair with Roger Fry into something passionless. Bell even manages to make life at Bloomsbury sound dull. The reader longs for something personal, but these vignettes fail to emotionally engage the outside reader--perhaps because they were written for friends already intimately familiar with the details. A fairly disappointing collection with a slightly misleading subtitle: only half of the essays are about the Bloomsbury Group. The attempt in the concluding essay to elevate Bell's stature beyond that of a minor artist is unconvincing. This is another addition to the groaning bookshelves of devoted Bloomsberries but not beyond. 14 b&w illustrations. (May)
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