In 1972 I traveled to England for the first time. It was Spring, and we were there over an early Easter – April 2. I was with a couple different groups of friends, but I also spent a wonderful week on my own in Oxford. It was toward the end of the trip – April into May – and my meager funds were running low. I found a great B&B – Mrs. Lawfull’s in Pembroke St. – for £1 a night. The English Bach Festival was happening, and every day I had my breakfast, went to the Festival box office and bough very cheap tickets for two concerts, one in the afternoon, one in the evening. Then I went to Blackwell’s Bookshop and bought a Penguin edition of one of Virginia Woolf’s novels. I spent the rest of the day going to the concerts, reading my book, having tea (my other meal of the day) at The Nosebag and then going back to Mrs. Lawfull’s and starting all over again. It was a terrific week that I’ve never forgotten.
Virginia Woolf was just the right read for this 24 year-old on an adventure. Her famous A Room of One’s Own set the exact mood for me as I thought of my own future and how one can determine that on one’s own. All of us who became adults in the 1960′ and 1970’s were given a rich and inviting scope of ideas and opportunities. Reading Woolf every day for a week was a grand way to immerse myself in England, in ideas, in learning about life.
My favorite Woolf novels, after the long essay that is A Room of One’s Own are To the Lighthouse, The Voyage Out, and Mrs. Dalloway. Here are all the novels I read that week: