Best Books About the Bloomsbury Group

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There have been many books published on the Bloomsbury Group over the years. The group was one of the most influential literary and artistic groups of its time and, as a result, much has been written about them.

If you want to learn more about the group it may be hard trying to figure out where to start. Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of what are considered to be the best books about the group.

These books are some of the best selling books on the topic and have also received good reviews from critics as well as from readers on sites like Amazon and Goodreads.

The following is a list of the best books about the Bloomsbury Group:

(Disclaimer: This article contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

1. The Bloomsbury Group by Francis Spalding

Published in 1997, this book by Francis Spalding explores the legacy of the Bloomsbury Group and discusses the impact that its members had on each other.

The book consists of 20 brief biographies on each of the Bloomsbury Group members complete with paintings and photographs created by the group.

Francis Spalding is an art historian, critic and biographer who has written numerous biographies on the Bloomsbury Group members such as Roger Fry: Art and Life; Vanessa Bell; and Duncan Grant: A Biography.

Spalding received a PhD from the University of Nottingham for a study of Roger Fry and taught art history at Sheffield City Polytechnic and Newcastle University.

Spalding was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1984, was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005 for services to literature and is a trustee of the Charleston Trust.

2. The Handbook to the Bloomsbury Group by Derek Ryan and Stephen Ross

Published in 2018, this book, edited by Derek Ryan and Stephen Ross, is a comprehensive overview of the Bloomsbury Group written by leading literary scholars.

The book features a series of essays and case studies that explores the Bloomsbury Group’s interactions, writings, behaviors, and influences on topics such as sexuality, feminism, philosophy, politics, class, nature and the arts.

Derek Ryan is a senior lecturer in Modernist Literature at the University of Kent. He is the author of the book Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory.

Stephen Ross is a professor of English at the University of Victoria in Canada.

3. The Bloomsbury Group: A Collection of Memoirs, Commentary and Criticism by S.P. Rosenbaum

Published in 1975, this book by S.P. Rosenbaum is a collection of memoirs and commentary by and about the members of the Bloomsbury Group.

The memoirs are the product of the Memoir Club, which was a writing group that the Bloomsbury Group members set up in 1920 to encourage each other to write and finish their memoirs.

S.P. Rosenbaum, who died in 2012, was a Professor Emeritus of English Literature at the University of Toronto.

Rosenbaum was a notable Bloomsbury scholar who wrote numerous books about the Bloomsbury Group such as Victorian Bloomsbury, Edwardian Bloomsbury, and A Bloomsbury Group Reader.

4. The Cambridge Companion to the Bloomsbury Group by Victoria Rosner

Published in 2014, this book, edited by Victoria Rosner, is a comprehensive guide to the Bloomsbury Group written by leading literary scholars.

The book explores and discuss the group’s ideals, values, political views as well as their achievements and innovations in the arts.

Victoria Rosner is the Dean of NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Rosner has written numerous books on modernism and is co-editor of Gender and Culture at Columbia University Press.

5. Living In Squares, Loving in Triangles: The Lives and Loves of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group by Amy Licence

Published in 2015, this book by Amy Licence explores the complex lives of the Bloomsbury Group members.

The book argues that the group’s personal lives were just as experimental as their art due to their open relationships, homosexual tendencies and extramarital affairs and it explores where their bold ideas and conviction came from.

Amy Licence is a journalist, author, historian and teacher who specializes in medieval history.

Licence is the author of numerous history books such as Red Roses: Blanch Gaunt to Elizabeth I and Son of York: A Gripping Historical Thriller.

6. The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club by S.P. Rosenbaum

Published in 2012, this book by S.P Rosenbaum explores the history of the Memoir Club, which was a writing group that the Bloomsbury Group members set up to encourage each other to write their memoirs.

Not much is known about the Memoir Club and hardly any documents about it have survived but Rosenbaum managed to gather whatever scraps of information he could find from the member’s diaries and letters to provide a closer look at this relatively unknown side of the group.

The book is unfinished because Rosenbaum died while he was writing it but the five chapters he did manage to complete are very interesting and insightful and make the book worth reading for anyone interested in learning more about Bloomsbury Group and its memoir club.

7. The Bloomsbury Look by Wendy Hitchmough

Published in 2020, this book by Wendy Hitchmough explores how the group expressed themselves and their collective identity in visual form.

The book uses unpublished photographs and extensive new research to analyze how the group created and expressed its unique aesthetic.

Although the group resisted being defined and categorized, their visual aesthetic in their art and clothing forged a distinctive and collective identity.

The group’s work with the Omega Workshops, a design enterprise created to help artists design, produce and sell their own works, brought this aesthetic to the general public and helped forged what is now referred to as the Bloomsbury style.

The book was well received when it was published. The New York Time’s named the book one of the best coffee table books to give as a holiday gift in 2020 and praised it for being “the first book to thoroughly unpack the group’s visual aesthetic…”

In addition, the Independent newspaper named it one of its “Books of the Month” when it was published in October of 2020 and described it as one of that month’s non-fiction highlights, praising the book for its “in-depth look at the visual creations of the group of writers” and its ”fascinating unpublished photographs.”

Wendy Hitchmouogh is a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex and was the curator at Charleston, the home of Bloomsbury Group member Vanessa Bell, for over 12 years.

8. The Bloomsbury Group Cookbook by Jans Ondaatje Rolls

Published in 2014, this cookbook by Jans Ondaatje Rolls explores the Bloomsbury Group’s ideas, personalities and achievements through its favorite foods and recipes.

The book, which is described as part cookbook, part social and cultural history, features more than 180 recipes of dishes the group often ate and served at their parties, luncheons and other gatherings.

The book was well received when it was published. Rachel Cooke wrote in a review in the Guardian that the book was “my find of the year” and declared that although she initially thought there was nothing new left to say about the Bloomsbury Group, this book provides a new, and relatable, look at the group:

“But Ondaatje Rolls illuminates corners others have not thought to visit – the dark shelves of the pantry, the final blurry moments of a dinner party, the tray brought quietly to an invalid – and as a result, they start to seem vastly more likeable. Or they do to me. The generosity of their tables, their weaknesses for such treats as chocolate and cake, makes them seem more human.”

Publisher’s Weekly described the book as “an artifact that offers an intimate tableside experience to witness the lives, dreams, conversations and meals of one of our most influential artistic and intellectual communities.”

The Telegraph also reviewed the book and declared that it “goes where no biography has gone before.”

Jans Ondaatje Rolls is a cookbook author who has written two other cookbooks Bosham Bisque: A Family Cookbook and Chester Cowder, which is a cookbook featuring Nova Scotia recipes.

Sources:
Wilson, Frances. “The Bloomsbury Cookbooks by Jans Ondaatje Rolls, Review: ‘Goes Where No Biography Has Gone Before.’” The Telegraph, 15 June. 2014, telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/10895286/The-Bloomsbury-Cookbook-by-Jans-Ondaatje-Rolls-review-goes-where-no-biography-has-gone-before.html
The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art.” Publisher’s Weekly, publishersweekly.com/978-0-500-51730-7
Cooke, Rachel. “Woolf It Down.” The Guardian, 16 Mar. 2014, theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/16/bloomsbury-cooks-virgina-woolf
Chilton, Martin. “Books of the Month: From William Boyd’s Trio to Don DeLillo’s The Silence.” The Independent, 14 Oct. 2020, independent.co.uk/independentpremium/culture/october-new-books-william-boyd-don-delillo-john-banville-roddy-doyle-b691390.html
My Review of the Bloomsbury Look by Wendy Hitchmough.” More About Books, moreaboutbooks.com/review/1320
Christensen, Lauren. “Coffee Tables Books to Give and Get This Season.” New York Times, 3 Dec. 2020, nytimes.com/2020/12/03/books/review/seasons-best-coffee-table-books.html
Hughes, Kathryn. “The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club by SP Rosenbaum and James Haule.” The Guardian, 23 Jan. 2014, theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/23/bloomsbury-group-memoir-club-review
Rustin, Susannah. “Boom Time for the Bloomsbury Group.” The Guardian, 5 June. 2015, theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/05/bloomsbury-booming-legacy-celebrate-virginia-woolf

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