I picked this book up during my recent visit to Charleston, which I wrote about in a previous post. Angelica Garnett is the daughter of the artist Vanessa Bell. Thought out her childhood Angelica believed her father to be Clive Bell. When she as about 17, her mother took her aside informed her that her father was in fact Duncan Grant, Vanessa’s one time lover and the man she shared Charleston with for most of her life. Angelica then went on to marry David ‘bunny’ Garnett, a contemporary of her parents and previous lover of Duncan Grant. Oh yes, it’s all very complicated
As you might imagine Angelica has a story to tell. Growing up between Charleston and Bloomsbury surrounded by many of the most well-known artists and writers of the day, Angelica has had many interesting encounters and experiences.
This is the story of Vanessa Bell and Bloomsbury told from Angelica’s unique position and personal experience. Although her relationship with her mother would not be described as ‘close’ in the conventional way, the bond they shared was strong. The cord that bound Angelica to Vanessa was one that she clung to throughout her life.
This is a forthright and honest account which paints vivid images of growing up in the shadow of Bloomsbury. There is lots of interesting detail about the relationships between Angelica and her mother but I was more touched by the relationship she had with her aunt ‘Virginia Woolf’.
“One of the rare but regular events was tea with Leonard and Virginia. Virginia I knew would treat me as a special person almost as Vanessa did…….Virginia and I retreated to the sitting room at the top of the house…..In the 1920’s it was an oasis of intimacy, shabby but elegant. The light shone in two yellow pools on either side of the fireplace – the scene was set for conversation. Virginia produced rolls of coloured paper which she had bought that afternoon from Kettle’s in New Oxford Street, one one of her favourite shops, and with scissors, paste and pins proceeded to create a doll, the image of Ottoline Morrell, over which unexpected triumph she emitted hoots of laughter. On other occasions we hung out of the front window above the parapet throwing out lumps of sugar to the cart-horses below, bored by waiting for their drivers”
I love the intimate and loving relationship portrayed here, showing Virgina Woolf as a fun and caring aunt.
This book won’t be for everyone but if you have an interest in Bloomsbury, Charleston and the myriad of people that inhabited those places then this may just well be one for you.