The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 10 February 2003

The London Scene

by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf was an accute observer of places and moods. She is now enjoying a renaissance, with the release of the movie The Hours, which is loosely connected to a couple of her works. This tiny book, at just 44 pages, is a collection of five short essays describing aspects of life in London. They are almost tourist scenes, describing the landscape, the architecture, and some of the character of places and historical figures in the London of her day. She opens with a gritty description of the docklands area of London, flooded with ships from all over the Empire, dumping massive loads of wool and sailing out again, a thousand a week. She passes up the socio-economic scale to busy and ostentatious Oxford Street, to the dank house museum of the Carlyles, on up to the pompous House of Commons. In each spot, Woolf captures the character of people and how they echo their surroundings, or their surroundings are echoed by them. The writing is vivid and immediate, intensely enjoyable. London has, no doubt, changed much since Woolf wrote these short essays. Much, however, would no doubt be familiar and timeless.

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Also by Virginia Woolf: [Mrs. Dalloway] [To the Lighthouse] [Orlando]

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