by Sigrid Nunez
"At that time I had a marmoset called Mitz which accompanied me almost everywhere, sitting on my shoulder or inside my waistcoat."
- Leonard Woolf, Downhill All the Way
First, let me say that I agree with Vita Sackville-West's assessment of Virginia Woolf's Three Guineas as a book filled with "misleading arguments".
Now that I have made that clear, I can add that I enjoyed this delightful short romp through the lives of Virginia and her husband Leonard Woolf and, of course, Mitz, the marmoset that adopted them and became a member of their family for a short while. Sigrid Nunez captures the flavor of Bloomsbury in this novella while providing details about the lives of its inhabitants that I would presume are as new to many readers as they were to me.
While I have read fine and lengthy biographies of Lytton Strachey and Lord Keynes I am not enough of a Bloomsbury aficionado to find this book anything but entertaining in the tidbits about the health and sickness, and the quotidian details of the everyday lives of this trio. The inclusion of the interaction of the Bells, Sackville-West and others in their circle added to the veridical character of the story.
Outside of warm, fuzzy, purring cats I am not an animal-lover (and even cats make me sneeze after too much of them up close), but I could still understand the relationship Leonard and Virginia developed with their marmoset friend. Nunez has written a small masterpiece built upon the sort of humaneness that can only be seen when reflected in the eyes of a small mammal with big heart.
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