By Alexandra Harris, Thames & Hudson, 192 pages

“The accent falls differently from of old.”

Virginia Woolf is Alexandra Harris’s second book, following her 2010 debut, Romantic Moderns, which won The Guardian’s First Book Award. Harris’s new book is an excellent companion to students who are delving into Woolf’s work for the first time as it is a lucid and enlightening introduction to her complex life.

A major theme of Woolf’s biography is her “habit of changing shape to stay alive”. Indeed, this concise book includes excerpts from Woolf’s letters and diary entries, short sections of commentary on her work, and intermittent photographs to construct a shifting, yet holistic portrait of Woolf’s maturation as a writer and as an individual.

Virginia Woolf is a mere 170 pages, but deftly achieves Harris’s intention to create “a first port of call for those new to Woolf” while explaining why she is still so widely read. Harris illustrates the life of a passionate genius, a tenacious writer who sets her sights high at an early age to become “a writer of such English as shall one day burn the pages,” and who, despite losing her life-long battle to a debilitating illness, achieves her goal, and continues to inspire readers today.

Reviewed by Emily Davis