Re-Covered: Angelica and Henrietta Garnett

Lucy Scholes at The Paris Review:

Henrietta Garnett was forty-one when her first and last novel, Family Skeletons, was published in 1986. She knew that her debut, a tragic gothic romance revolving around a complex constellation of family secrets, would face an unusual degree of public scrutiny: Henrietta was English literary royalty, the direct descendant of the Bloomsbury Group on both sides of her family tree. Her father was the novelist David “Bunny” Garnett, author of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize–winning Lady into Fox (1922), a book so highly regarded it was on the British high school syllabus when his daughter was a teenager in the late fifties and early sixties. Henrietta’s mother was Angelica Garnett, née Bell, daughter of Virginia Woolf’s sister, the painter Vanessa Bell. “I had been putting off trying to get anything published,” Henrietta confessed when an interviewer asked about her famous relations, “because I couldn’t help thinking that whatever I did it would never be as good as anything they’ve achieved.” Family Skeletons is a strange and singular creation: melodramatic in plot but elegant in tone, written in a cool and fluent prose that is utterly Henrietta’s own. The novel bears no resemblance to either Bunny’s or Woolf’s fiction; nevertheless, the story does contain more psychological traces of her family’s legacy—namely, of the uniquely disturbing personal dramas that shaped the lives of those who raised her and the public perception of the Bloomsbury Group.

more here.