It has been known for some time that Woolf was molested by her Duckworth half-brothers. Drawing on Woolf's published and unpublished writings, on writings by the Stephen family, and on the recent literature of child abuse, DeSalvo argues that these dreadful experiences are the key to Woolf's instability and crucial to her artistic vision. The author marshals her well-documented argument carefully, but it is finally too unrelenting, theoretical, and even speculative. DeSalvo's version of the Stephen household, where "incest, sexual violence, and abusive behavior were a common, rather than a singular or rare occurrence," is too exaggerated to be convincing. It is a pleasure to emerge from DeSalvo's overheated book and enter into the clarity, grace, elegance, and high critical intelligence of Volume 3 of Woolf's collected essays. Written at a time when Woolf was emerging as a mature novelist, the essays--primarily reviews of forgotten books--constantly delight and surprise, as when an assessment of two minor works remind us that the "novel is not hung upon a nail and festooned with glory, but, on the contrary, walks the high road, alive and alert, and brushes shoulders with real men and women." Bearing interestingly on the fiction Woolf was writing at the time, these excellently edited essays reconfirm her major importance as a 20th-century writer.
- Keith Cushman, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.