- About the Author
- On Active Service
I bought this book thinking it was going to be about the Bloomsbury set: Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Lytton Strachey etc. It was my own fault, I should have read the blurb more closely. It is, in fact, the biographies of five women who lived at one time or another in Mecklenburgh Square. Much of the “biography” is not, in fact, about their time in the square and to call them biographies is also misleading: they’re more sort of “potted histories” of some of their more interesting exploits.
I don’t deny it’s a very clever and erudite book. Parts of it were absolutely fascinating. I had no idea how hard women had to work in the past to to be taken seriously.
But it’s not about the Bloomsbury set, neither is it about Mecklenburgh Square. It’s about five women making their own way in what was in their time a man’s world.
It is an odd premise to base a book on. Particularly since none of the five women lived there at the same time and they didn’t actually know each other personally. And none if them lived in the square for very long: Virginia Woolf actually lived most of the time at Monk’s House in Sussex. Most of the “action” of the story takes place elsewhere.
The only two women I had ever heard of before were Dorothy L.Sayers and, of course, Virginia Woolf. Hilda Doolittle, Jane Harrison and Eileen Power were completely unknown to me. These were trailblazing women, women who weren’t afraid to lead individual lives. Other women were reliant on husbands, fathers or brothers to support them. Mecklenburgh Square provided the all-important “room of one’s own” that Virginia Woolf spoke about, a space to work unimpeded by domestic duties.
I have to admit, I struggled through it. Despite being well-researched the author never really captured the characters of any of the women and the narrative was dull and plodding. I couldn’t recommend it to anyone though it will go on my bookshelf with my other books on the Bloomsbury Set.
Bethany Askew is the author of seven novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed, Three Extraordinary Years and The Two Saras.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Two more women’s fiction books have been accepted for publication in 2020 and 2021 respectively and she is currently working on a new novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.