My latest book review at PopMatters is of a bibliomemoir by Katharine Smyth: ALL THE LIVES WE EVER LIVED. It features one of my all-time favorite novels, TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, by Virginia Woolf. Smyth explores how the writing of this novel helped Woolf finally come to terms with the loss of her mother and how the reading of it helped Smyth through her own grief over losing her father.
It’s a beautiful, well-written book that shows how, rather than turning grief into public performance (as it often is these days), it is better to introspect deeply and allow literature to be both solace and inspiration. Approached like this, literature may not be complete emotional support, but it can save us from drowning in our loss and teach us to shape it into a work of art. As Smyth writes, “…art may not give us the unequivocal truths that we desire from our world, but it can provide a stay against its chaos and confusion.”