This group biography explores the lives of five extraordinary women who all lived in secluded Mecklenburgh Square,  on the fringes of Bloomsbury, between the two world wars. The women are H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) a modernist poet: Dorothy Sayers, author of the Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels: Jane Ellen Harrison, classicist and translator: Eileen Power, historian, broadcaster and pacifist: and Virginia Woolf who  needs no introduction. The unusual title actually comes from Woolf; in 1925 diary entry, she wrote of the pleasures of “street sauntering and square haunting”.
Each of these women claimed, to use Woolf’s words again, “a room of one’s own”, and a life of  their own. It’s a fascinating and often moving study of five very different women who were  united in their intelligence, curiosity and creativity. It makes me sad, nearly a century on, to read how convention and male authority constrained their ambitions; how difficult it was for them to reach their potential and achieve recognition.
At the end of the book Wade writes:
…the legacy of these women’s lives lives on…in future generations’ right to talk, walk and write freely, to live invigorating lives.
I’m sad too because I know that as women we still don’t always feel that we have the right to the lives we want.

Square Haunting by Francesca Wade Faber&Faber $39.95







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4 Responses to SQUARE HAUNTING

  1. Kate C says:

    This sounds like a wonderful book! Thank you for bringing it to my attention. In my twenties I was quite obsessed with these between-wars women writers but I don’t think I quite appreciated how constrained their lives were.

  2. postteen says:

    This looks great – have you read Street Haunting? It is one of my very favourite VW pieces. I know what you mean re: sadness but take small comfort in knowing more womens stories are being told.

    • susan says:

      They are, yes, but still, really, it should be better by now!
      I remember the thrill of first reading Alice Munro’s “Lives of Girls and Women.” Even just the title!

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