Bloomsbury’s Outsider: a life of David Garnett by Sarah Knights

Bloomsburys-OutsiderYou may have heard me mention Lady Into Fox by David Garnett here a few times – indeed, it’s on my ongoing list of 50 books you must read. Lady Into Fox was a focus of my DPhil and I read plenty of archival material around Garnett and the 1920s. Just my luck that a biography was published now, after I’ve finished. Ditto one of Edith Olivier. I’m not bitter, honest.

But, being serious, it’s rather lovely to have everything about David Garnett’s life in one place, and I was pleased to review Sarah Knights’ biography for Shiny New Books. As usual, you can read the beginning of my review below, or head over to SNB to read the whole thing.

Sarah Knights claims that she wrote her biography of David Garnett partly to restore his reputation – not as a writer, but as a person. His wife’s memoir Deceived With Kindness had painted him as a libertine who took advantage of her youth – perhaps one of the reasons that it is so seldom quoted in Bloomsbury’s Outsider – and Knights felt that was an injustice. Well, her book is exhaustive, fascinating, and… does nothing whatever to dispel Garnett’s libertine reputation.

5 thoughts on “Bloomsbury’s Outsider: a life of David Garnett by Sarah Knights

  • July 28, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    There is this new tv series on BBC 2 (mondays) about the Bloomsbury group.

    • July 29, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Yes! I missed it, but will catch up.

  • July 29, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    “Exhaustive” is an apt adjective for this book. I found the profusion of banal details tiring and skipped ahead to more interesting bits constantly. A bit more editing would have made this biography far less dull. It always shocks me when a writer manages to render an account of a scandalously entertaining subject tiresome by cramming the pages with superfluous incidentals.
    Bunny first makes an appearance next week in episode two of “Life in Sqaures.” After watching the first episode, I think the salaciousness of the series was over-hyped by the British press. Granted, the exploits of many members of the Bloomsbury set are too rude for explicit portrayal on BBC, but it was a tad staid in my opinion. Victoria Coren Mitchell’s recent documentary series on bohemians was far naughtier with its Bloomsbury analysis. With the exception of James Norton, many of the casting choices were unfortunate. Nevertheless, it is pretty to watch and watch I will. Every bit.

    • August 4, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      I still haven’t watched ep 1 of Living in Squares, so will have to have a marathon catch-up soon.

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