Young Bloomsbury: The Generation That Redefined Love, Freedom, and Self-Expression in 1920s England

Atria. Dec. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781982164768. $29. LIT
The second-generation members of the legendary Bloomsbury Group take center stage in Strachey’s (Rooms of Their Own) somewhat dizzying historical account. In the years before World War I, Virginia Woolf and her sister (the painter Vanessa Bell) joined a circle of artists and writers (including Lytton Strachey, to whom the author is related) in their Bloomsbury district home in central London. The group discussed sexual equality, freedom, and experimentation in private, but as they gained notoriety and influence by the 1920s, self-expression among the new postwar generation became more public—even as homosexuality remained illegal. At gender-blurring costume parties, queer young people found acceptance. These gatherings also rejuvenated the aging Bloomsbury set. The author was the last Strachey to grow up in her ancestral home of Sutton Court, and she draws on her family’s history, archives, as well as papers in special collections to enhance her research. A much-needed list of “Dramatis Personae” is included to sort through these often-interconnected characters.
VERDICT Bloomsbury Group devotees and readers of LGTBQ+ history will likely relish Strachey’s unique perspective.
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