All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf (Hardback)Katharine Smyth (author)
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Katharine Smyth was a student at Oxford when she first read Virginia Woolf's modernist masterpiece To the Lighthouse in the comfort of an English sitting room, and in the companionable silence she shared with her father. After his death - a calamity that claimed her favourite person - she returned to that beloved novel as a way of wrestling with his memory and understanding her own grief.
Smyth's story moves between the New England of her childhood and Woolf's Cornish shores and Bloomsbury squares, exploring universal questions about family, loss and homecoming. Through her inventive, highly personal reading of To the Lighthouse and her artful adaptation of its groundbreaking structure, Smyth guides us towards a new vision of Woolf's most demanding and rewarding novel - and crafts an elegant reminder of literature's ability to clarify and console.
Braiding memoir, literary criticism and biography, All the Lives We Ever Lived is a wholly original debut: a love letter from a daughter to her father, and from a reader to her most cherished author.
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Number of pages: 320
Weight: 525 g
Dimensions: 223 x 145 x 28 mm
This is a transcendent book, not a simple meditation on one woman's loss, but a reflection on all of our losses, on loss itself, on how to remember and commemorate our dead. * Washington Post *
Deeply moving... This is a beautiful book about the wildness of mortal life, and the tenuous consolations of art. -- Joanna Kavenna * TLS *
Smyth is an elegant writer and she explores her deep, complicated love for her father in lyrical yet restrained prose. * Literary Review *
Blending analysis of a deeply literary novel with a personal story... gently entwining observations from Woolf's classic with her own layered experience. Smyth tells us of her love for her father, his profound alcoholism and the unpredictable course of the cancer that ultimately claimed his life. * TIME *
This searching memoir pays homage to To the Lighthouse, while recounting the author's fraught relationship with her beloved father, a vibrant figure afflicted with alcoholism and cancer... evocative and incisive. * New Yorker *
[Smyth's] prose is so fluid and clear throughout that it's not surprising to observe her view of her family, its cracks and fissures, sharpen into unsparing focus... Her exploration of grown-up love, the kind that accounts for who the loved one actually is, not who you want him or her to be, gains power and grace as her story unfolds. I suspect her book could itself become solace for people navigating their way through the complexities of grief for their fallen idols. And they will be lucky to have it. -- Radhika Jones * New York Times Book Review *
All the Lives We Ever Lived is both a reflection on To the Lighthouse and a lingeringly beautiful elegy in its own right. * Los Angeles Review of Books *
Like H Is for Hawk, Smyth's book is a memoir that's not quite a memoir, using Woolf, and her obsession with Woolf, as a springboard to tell the story of her father's vivid life and sad demise due to alcoholism and cancer....an experiment in 21st-century introspection that feels rooted in a modernist tradition and bracingly fresh. * Vogue *
A conceptually ambitious and assured debut... a close reading of that novel from the perspective of an obsessed reader who is both coming-of-age and coming to terms... A work of incisive observation and analysis, [with] exquisite writing. * Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review) *
Brilliant... All the Lives is a memoir, yes, but also part biography, part lit crit, part adulation - the story of the emotional turmoil of her father's alcoholism, cancer diagnosis, and eventual death, organized as a paean to a British novel written in the 1920s... Smyth reaffirms the value of novels as existential guideposts.... beautiful. * Vulture *
This gorgeous, moving book gracefully moves between memoir and literary criticism... Smyth's writing possesses a unique ability to wend its way into your head, traveling into all the darkest corners of your mind, triggering thoughts on love and loss and family and memory you hadn't known were lurking; it's a profound experience, reading this book - one not to be missed. * Nylon *
I loved All the Lives We Ever Lived: its structural inventiveness, its fluid and lyrically beautiful writing - some lines made me gasp - and its often astonishing wisdom. But above all, this is a smart, moving portrait of a family in crisis; Smyth weaves literary criticism and biography into nearly every page, but she never strays from the deepest concerns of the human heart. -- Jamie Quatro, author of Fire Sermon and I Want to Show You More
All the Lives We Ever Lived is a work of vivid intelligence-a sharp love letter to the reading and relationships that shape us, and an ingenious reply to the questions Woolf asked her readers to answer for themselves. -- Nell Stevens, author of Bleaker House and Mrs Gaskell and Me
In her brilliant debut, Katharine Smyth has done the impossible - invented a new form for the overworked genre of memoir, weaving Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse into her personal story as she absorbs the meaning of her beloved father's long illness and early death. Her prose is luxuriant and supple, but never sentimental, and her piercing insights into the dynamics of the nuclear family often profound. -- Michael Scammell, author of Koestler and Solzhenitsyn
Lyrically written ... Haunting * i *
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