'Outstanding. I'll be recommending this all year.' Sarah Bakewell
'A beautiful and deeply moving book.' Sally Rooney
'I like this London life . . . the street-sauntering and square-haunting.' Virginia Woolf, diary, 1925
Mecklenburgh Square, on the radical fringes of interwar Bloomsbury, was home to activists, experimenters and revolutionaries; among them were the modernist poet H. D., detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, classicist Jane Harrison, economic historian Eileen Power, and writer and publisher Virginia Woolf. They each alighted there seeking a space where they could live, love and, above all, work independently.
Francesca Wade's spellbinding group biography explores how these trailblazing women pushed the boundaries of literature, scholarship, and social norms, forging careers that would have been impossible without these rooms of their own.
'Elegant, erudite and absorbing, Square Haunting is a startlingly original debut, and Francesca Wade is a writer to watch.' Frances Wilson
'A fascinating voyage through the lives of five remarkable women - moving and immersive.' Edmund Gordon
Wade, editor of White Review magazine, makes an excellent debut with a gripping account of the lives of five women who lived at various times in the same square in London's Bloomsbury district between 1916 and 1940. These women poet H.D., mystery writer Dorothy Sayers, medievalist and economic historian Eileen Power, classicist Jane Harrison, and novelist Virginia Woolf all drew sustenance from living in Mecklenburgh Square, which offered an artistically and politically radical milieu, as well as affordable and readily available housing for single women, then a relatively rare commodity. Wade evinces a strong grasp of what drove these women to place work ahead of love, and fluidly traces their various interrelationships. Woolf, for example, was deeply influenced by the newly female-centered histories written by Harrison and Power, both of whom she knew well, while Sayers and H.D. endured tumultuous affairs with the same man, John Cournos, who callously turned both relationships into fiction. Wade also illuminates her protagonists' political advocacy, for egalitarian and peaceful values against hierarchical and militarist ones. By showing how these women confronted an ideological divide still existing today, this superbly written and researched work will make them highly relevant for, and accessible to, contemporary audiences.