In the years before the First World War, a collection of writers and artists--Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, and Lytton Strachey among them--began to make a name for themselves in England and America for their irreverent spirit and provocative works of literature, art, and criticism. They called themselves the Bloomsbury Group and by the 1920s, they were at the height of their influence.
Then a new generation stepped forward--creative young people who tantalized their elders with their captivating looks, bold ideas, and subversive energy. Young Bloomsbury introduces us to this colorful cast of characters, including novelist Eddy Sackville-West, who wore elaborate make-up and dressed in satin and black velvet; artist Stephen Tomlin, who sculpted the heads of his male and female lovers; and author Julia Strachey, who wrote a searing tale of blighted love. Talented and productive, these larger-than-life figures had high-achieving professional lives and extremely complicated emotional lives.
The group had always celebrated sexual equality and freedom in private, feeling that every person had the right to live and love in the way they chose. But as transgressive self-expression became more public, this younger generation gave Old Bloomsbury a new voice. Revealing an aspect of history not yet explored and with "effervescent detail" (Juliet Nicolson, author of Frostquake), Young Bloomsbury celebrates an open way of living and loving that would not be embraced for another hundred years.
Kirkus Reviews (10/15/2022):
A queer history of the infamous Bloomsbury Group and their young acolytes. In the 21st century, where ENM is used as an acronym for ethical nonmonogamy, it may be strange to think there was a time and place where people had to hide their sexual preferences and the people they loved. Of course, while much has changed for the better, so too has homophobia and discrimination been emboldened in recent years, especially against trans people. This is, in part, what motivated Strachey (a descendant of Bloomsbury's own Lytton Strachey) to write this book. The author insightfully analyzes the substance of Bloomsbury's social network, how their lives intertwined as a kind of queer chosen family, and how they adapted to heteronormative expectations while remaining true to their desires and identities. With short chapters written in lucid prose, this is a dream to read for those interested in queer history, and Strachey treats the colorful drama of her subject's lives with tact. The most delightful surprise here is learning that some of the most beloved pillars of early 20th-century Anglophone culture--e.g., Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, and Lytton Strachey--were not above using their literary gifts for catty missives about their fellow creatives or paramours or roommates (or some magical commingling of all three categories). Queerness has been a social constant through the ages. What's significant about this meeting of old and young Bloomsbury is how queer cultural knowledge has been exchanged from one generation to the next and how vital that transmission remains. A mistake the young make is assuming their antecedents have nothing left to contribute to an ever shifting present. On the contrary, the brilliant works produced by the luminaries of young Bloomsbury would not have happened without the nurture of old Bloomsbury. Strachey demonstrates this truth with aplomb. This compact history proves that the lived experiences of our elders are essential resource for succeeding generations. COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Nino Strachey is the last member of the Strachey family to have grown up at Sutton Court in Somerset, home of the family for more than three hundred years. After studying at Oxford University and the Courtauld Institute, Nino worked as a curator for the National Trust and English Heritage. She is also the author of Rooms of Their Own. She lives in West London with her husband and child. Follow her on Twitter @NinoStrachey.