All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf

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Crown/Archetype, Jan 29, 2019 - Biography & Autobiography - 320 pages
A wise, lyrical memoir about the power of literature to help us read our own lives--and see clearly the people we love most.

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 favorite 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 toward 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.

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User Review  - PatsyMurray -

I got this book from the library, and may very well buy it for my own collection. While occasionally the connections between her own story and that of Virginia Woolf's seems a bit strained, much more ... Read full review

All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf

User Review  -

In this luminous debut memoir, Smyth, an editor at the Paris Review, recounts her father’s life and death, while referring to Virginia Woolf and her novel To the Lighthouse as a counterpoint to her ... Read full review

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About the author (2019)

Katharine Smyth is a graduate of Brown University. She has worked for The Paris Review and taught at Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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