Rowman and Littlefield, June 2005
Letters to Virginia Woolf is a lyrical memoir and a meditation on Woolf’s life and writings, particularly her relevance in this chaotic post 9/11 time period. The book also deeply examines contemporary women’s experience within the context of Woolf’s enduring importance. While Woolf was not a mother, Williams looks at the experience of becoming a mother later in life and the ensuing fertility issues that go along with that decision. She writes this within the context of Woolf’s statement that she succeeded in killing off The Victorian Angel in the House, but could never write the truth about her body.Williams explores Woolf’s themes of memory, childhood, and loss as she writes of her own experiences with these very issues.
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“How I loved this book and wept.” Jane Marcus, Distinguished Professor CUNY and CCNY.
“Letters…belongs to what one might call the literature of disaster, specifically the literature inspired by 9/11, including Frédéric Beigbeder’s Windows on the World, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and Ian McEwan’s Saturday. Like Williams’s Letters, McEwan’s Saturday also shows us how Woolf is an appropriate writer to turn to in a post-, and pre-, disaster world.”—Jeanne Dubino , Women Writers, Summer 06′
“Few write with more honesty and lyricism about tough issues than Lisa Williams in ‘Letters to Virginia Woolf.’ Williams faces the complexity of adolescence, divorce, childbirth, death and war with heartfelt intelligence, reminding us that struggle and loss often lead to an appreciation of life’s wonder. Like Woolf who grappled with ‘The Angel in the House’ almost a century ago, Williams continues to wrestle with the luminous presence of the past as she peels back ‘layers of selves we outgrow but never discard.’ ‘Letters to Virginia Woolf’ guides us through this world of contradiction and offers hope for the dangerous time in which we live.”—Chella Courington, author, Southern Girl Gone Wrong
“Every once in a while a book comes your way, almost as if from out of the ether, that moves you to such an extent it forces you, at all costs, to make other people read it too. Lisa Williams’s Letters to Virginia Woolf seems to be one of those books. “—Lee John Rourke, Managing Editor , Scarecrow Reviews
“Pure poetry, ‘Letters to Virginia Woolf’ is a book not only of considerable significance–I am convinced Woolf herself would sit up and listen to it if she could.”—Lisa Low, editor, Milton, The Metaphysicals and Romanticism
Photo Credit: Richard Jacovitz
“Williams acknowledge[s] that life, often fragile and tenuous, is forever changed in ways that are beyond our control. And, in a series of moving, heart-felt and deeply personal letters to Virginia Woolf, she explores the notion of lost innocence, using Woolf’s ideas about war, memory, and childhood as a catalyst…[What] really shines through [in] Williams’s short book is her appreciation of life’s wonder in all its complexity and fragility.—Kim Bofo, ReadingMatters.com
“‘Letters to Virginia Woolf’ takes a fresh look at the enduring impact of Woolf’s legacy. This grippingly personal testimony of the value of female influence demonstrates the bonding power of women’s creative imagination. Lisa Williams successfully demonstrates how to communicate across boundaries of difference and in the process helps to make Woolf accessible across cultures.”—Tuzyline Jita Allan, English Department, Baruch College, City University of New York
“Lisa Williams’s Letters to Virginia Woolf is a spare and lovely book; probably three parts memoir to one part literary appreciation of the work of Virginia Woolf.” Taking the character of the shell shocked soldier, Septimus (from Mrs Dalloway), and Woolf’s own pacifist views the author initially reflects on the continuing pain and anxiety flowing from the events of 9/11. Memory and the shadow of the past are also strong themes and she deals, in pared down, sometimes poetic prose, with unhappy ghosts from her own history… As she does so, she reflects on how far she has managed to fulfil Virginia Woolf’s ambition to kill off what Woolf termed the ‘Angel in the House’. At first I was unsure about the letter format, but was quickly converted: Lisa Williams’s use of Woolf’s work is sensitive and apt, illuminating both the original quote and its relevance to our situation in the twenty-first century.”—Sandra MacDonald , editor, Book World
“Because the book is so accessible, it will help readers who are ‘afraid of Virginia Woolf,’ and will appeal to many women on many levels. It will not exclude male readership. This is a great service to all readers of Virginia Woolf.”—Jane Lilienfeld, Professor of English, Lincoln University of Missouri