Ellan Read

sometimes witty book reviews

The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf

the complete shorter fiction of virginia woolfYear of publication: 1989
Found: While unsuccessfully searching for a copy of Orlando
Pages/read time: 346, three (blissful) weeks


It’s marvellous what you find when you’re looking for something else. Inspired after reading A Room of One’s Own, I went looking for Orlando. According to many this novel is one of her best pieces. But I couldn’t find it any any of the libraries I live closest to. What I did find though was Susan Dick’s edition of Woolf’s shorter fiction – including previously unpublished and unfinished works.

Woolf is perhaps most celebrated as a writer of novels (such as To the Lighthouse) but thanks to my accidental find I am of the personal opinion that her shorter fictions are my favourite. Don’t get me wrong, I adore her novels too, it’s just something about her short stories that’s really, really enjoyable.

Perhaps it’s the way she can conjure a whole world, history and way of viewing the world in a few paragraphs. Or maybe how each short work – while being undeniably Woolf –  is in itself a totally unique take on the world. One might be a snail or a gardener. The focus may be a mark on the wall or a piece of broken plate. The action my revolve around a small terrier or a aloof gentlemen in a shabby suit. The impetus may be a sudden bang from what appears to a royal car or perhaps it’s monkey going about it’s daily business. These stories are the art of making the seemingly mundane or insignificant worth the focus of one’s entire attention.

As with all Woolf’s prose, when done with care and attention and the reading of these works becomes a hugely rewarding experience. I slowly plowed through each of the fifty or so works in a very methodical and luxuriating fashion. But they can be picked at random and read out of chronological order without any problem. Read a half dozen, baker’s dozen or a whole lot. Like a large box of expensive chocolates, they are yours to consume when and how you wish.

Disclaimer: I’m totally bias.

Reading Suggestion: If you find you haven’t been paying attention for a paragraph or so, do make the effort to go back.

2 comments on “The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf

  1. Pingback: Orlando: A Biography | Ellan Read

  2. Pingback: Outlaws of the Marsh | Ellan Read

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