by Virginia Woolf
(About 2600 words)
Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Virginia Woolf, but I’m not a great fan of stream of consciousness altogether, so it’s not just her writing that fails to inspire me. I just don’t feel much of anything when I read her, and Kew Gardens is no exception. Abundant with flowery description (pun intended), Kew Gardens has some lovely imagery, but not much else. The story hovers over a flowerbed of red, blue and yellow flowers while various people, interesting in their own ways drift by in snippets of conversion and snapshots of their lives. Perhaps intended to be profound in its microcosm, there’s unfortunately little here of interest to even talk about. At the end, I found myself wondering if the snail ever did reach its goal, or if it too became bogged down in the muggy heat of the narrative and took shelter from it under the dead leaf that had once appeared to be the story’s chief antagonist.
Adeline Virginia Stephen (Virginia Woolf) was born on January 25, 18, 1882 in Middlesex, England to a family of wide ranging politics and professions. She had four half siblings from her parents’ previous marriages, and three full siblings, making her childhood home a rather busy place. Her father was an editor, so Virginia grew up surrounded by literary society, as well as a large collection of books, artists and photographers. While she and her sisters were educated at home, Virginia’s brother’s were sent away for formal education, from where they brought even more intellectuals home. If that isn’t a recipe for breeding a writer, I don’t know what is. Virginia was prone to nervous breakdowns throughout her life, the first of which she suffered after the death of her mother and half sister when she was thirteen. Later, a breakdown after the death of her father caused her to be briefly institutionalized. She would be in and out of medical care many more times throughout her life, before finally committing suicide via drowning at the age of fifty-nine. Before her death, she wrote to her husband:
Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that—everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.
Virginia Woolf was the author of nine novels, six short story collections, three biographies and fourteen non-fiction works.