"Cunningham’s inventive , absorbing novel makes a sensitive reinvention of Woolf’s inner life. He has a strong idea of what made Woolf’s life heroic, of her dedication to her work in the teeth of illness, and her violent swings between moods of pleasure in life and abysses of depression.
My reservations about his re-imagining of Woolf stem from a biographer’s squeamish reluctance to see a real person made over into a fictional character, with made-up thoughts and speeches. I found it hard to accept the tone of voice of a Virginia Woolf who thinks to herself: ‘Bless you, Quentin’, or to her husband, ‘If you send Nelly in to interrupt me I won’t be responsible for my actions.’ In these invented scenes and conversations, the class details don’t always ring quite true. I can’t hear Virginia Woolf wanting to rush and ‘fix her hair’, or Vanessa Bell commenting on a ‘lovely coat for Angelica at Harrods’. (Angelica would be much more likely to be wearing a cut-down jacket of Duncan Grant’s, or a velvet cloak made out of old curtains.) But fiction, of course, is allowed to do this.”
"The rewriting of Woolf’s life and work takes a different shape again in the translation of The Hours from novel into screenplay and film. If an uncertainty of social register, a narrowing of political focus to issues of gender, and a simplifying dramatisation of Woolf’s creative processes were the weaknesses of Cunningham’s otherwise persuasive and attractive novel, the film of The Hours - if treated as a biopic - is much more vulnerable to charges of vulgarisation, inacurracy and sentimentalisation.
Certainly its presentation of the social details of the Woolfs’ lives were an irritant to this biographer. Hogarth House and Monk’s House look too grand and elegant, more like Edith Wharton or Vita Sackville-West’s house and garden than bohemian, messy colourful Bloomsbury. The servants, in their matching uniforms, are too smartly turned out (though their ongoing battle with their difficult mistress is well done), and Vanessa, in a fine spiteful performance by Miranda Richardson, is absurdly posh, a high-society lady one couldn’t possibly imagine picking up a paintbrush.”
Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf’s Nose
postcards from the Virginia Woolf exhibition today
I detest the masculine point of view. I am bored by his heroism, virtue, and honour. I think the best these men can do is not talk about themselves anymore.
Woolf’s diary, 1926
”I mean, life has to be sloughed: has to be faced: to be rejected; then accepted on new terms with rapture. And so on, and so on; till you are 40, when the only problem is how to grasp it tighter and tighter to you, so quick it seems to slip, and so infinitely desirable is it.
As for writing, at 30 I was still writing, reading; tearing up industriously. I had not published a word (save reviews). I despaired. Perhaps at that age one is really most a writer. Then one cannot write, not for lack of skill, but because the object is too near, too vast. I think it must recede before one can take a pen to it. At any rate, at 20, 30, 40, and I’ve no doubt 50, 60, and 70, that to me is the task; not particularly noble or heroic, as I see it in my own case, for all my inclinations are to write ”
Virginia Woolf in a letter to Gerald Brenan, dated December 1922.