Skip to main content

Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf


Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf went for a walk one day and never returned. Her body was found a few days later in the River Ouse, and her death was ruled a suicide, as she had filled her pockets with stones in order to keep herself under the water. She had spent a lifetime battling through and recovering from nervous breakdowns but left an astounding contribution to Belle Lettre.

ADELINE is a stunning interpretation of her life. Written in the third person, the book reads as if it were Virginia's sister, Vanessa, writing a diary. In real life she did not keep one, thus author Norah Vincent had a large landscape upon which to paint the story. No need to think up characters, the Stephen sisters had enough people in their lives to allow dozens of books to be written about them and their friends. When Virginia and Vanessa moved out of their family home, they settled in Bloomsbury, a neighborhood not considered anything but Bohemian, which is exactly what they had in mind. They opened their door to the writers, artists, poets and other like-minded persons of the day.

"ADELINE is a stunning interpretation of [Virginia Woolf's] life. Written in the third person, the book reads as if it were Virginia's sister, Vanessa, writing a diary."

Every night the friends gathered to talk, argue, support, undercut and make sure they left the house in one piece. Some of the people who could be depended upon to show up were T. S. Eliot and his crazy wife, Vivienne, W. B. Yeats, Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes and E M Forster. They were accustomed to having arguments at Cambridge as undergraduates, and their adult verbal trysts were an extension of those.

The novel takes place between 1921 and 1942, the year Virginia died. In her life she had visions; one that repeated itself became her alter ego, Adeline. This figment haunted and supported Virginia when she chose to appear or when the writer "called her up." According to Vincent: "[she] recalls what Virginia cannot bear to: her mother’s deathbed, the incestuous fumblings of her stepbrother --- and the figure who held her hand on the riverbank as she went to her suicide. It is all a bit lurid.”

The architecture of ADELINE is set in a series of "Acts," each representing the time when the author published a new book. While Vincent doesn't go into any critical analysis of the novels, she doesn't really have to. Those familiar with Virginia Woolf and her work will know those books and a myriad of literary criticism, biographies and fiction that already exists.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on April 17, 2015

Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf
by Norah Vincent

  • Publication Date: April 12, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0544704851
  • ISBN-13: 9780544704855