The Friday Slot - author Alexandra Harris
Why it worked so well wasn't just because of the enthusiasm we all still have for Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, two of the most popular women writers in English Literature, but was particularly thanks to the passion and knowledge of both speakers. Specialists in their chosen subjects, they could have entertained us for hours, without notes, quite easily (or for as long as they could stand it!).
Alexandra came to prominence just two years ago, when she deservedly won the Guardian First Book Award for her superb study of 1930s and 40s English artists and writers, Romantic Moderns (Reviewing it for The Herald, I wrote: "What had begun as a reaction to the challenge of Modernism to make the world anew, became, with the advent of the war, a movement invested with a political need to keep things as they are. Harris doesn’t see this necessarily as a bad thing – the Modernism urge for detachment in the artist was rejected for a new involvement with the subject, as the population were soon to be told to stand as one against a common enemy...).
Since then, she has also written a short study of Virginia Woolf, which I think is that rare kind of biography that makes you see the subject in whole new light. She emphasised the sheer variety of the work Woolf produced, and managed to marry the art and the life in a wholly sympathetic way, bringing in Woolf's upbringing, the loss of her mother, her relationships with women, to see how they impacted on the writing. It was real delight to read and if any fans of Woolf are looking for an inspired and inspiring introduction, look no further.
Teaching now at the University if Liverpool, Alexandra is currently working on a book about the weather, but she was happy to answer a few of my questions about her books so far.