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Young Bloomsbury: the generation that reimagined love, freedom and self-expression

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Just as the original Bloomsbury Set (including Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf) had formed and caused societal stirs from the very start of the 20th century with their spirited approach to life, literature and culture - by the time the 1920s rolled around, a new era was blossoming (blooming? They pushed boundaries, turned heads and sparked discourse aplenty - and most importantly, revelled in it.

Her focus isn’t on the Bloomsbury Group itself, instead she turns her gaze on the younger generations who became its avid fans and followers. In all seriousness, the environment cultivated by the elder Bloomsburys does seem to have been genuinely beneficial—radical, too, in its gender equality (class less so, however, something this book gently elides) and sexual openness, especially in contrast to the repression of the times. They came together through different routes: wild parties, exclusive dining clubs, some flocked to Lytton Strachey’s home at Ham Spray others to literary salons in Bloomsbury itself. I picked this book up, because I thought it would be great to learn about the Bloomsbury group from a family member.As such, I ended the book feeling as though I had eaten an insubstantial meal and was left, casting around, feeling rather unsatisfied.

Above all else, Bloomsbury was a liberating force, as Nino Strachey shows in her sparkling new book. As skepticism, admiration, envy, and confusion ebb and flow between one chattering, seductive, thinking, inspiring generation and another, this is Gatsby made real.I liked the occasional mentions of wealthy queer Americans of this era, such as Henrietta Bingham and her girlfriend Mina Kerstein, who hung out in Bloomsbury and had some juicy affairs in the 20s.

By about the 70% mark I’m not sure I could have told you the difference between Stephen Tennant, Frances Marshall, and Stephen Tomlin.I definitely admire (most of) them, as free spirits, creative forces, and uninhibited lifestyle creators. But as transgressive self-expression became more public, this younger generation gave Old Bloomsbury a new voice. With a deft turn of the Bloomsbury kaleidoscope, and an impressive gift for finding treasures in the archives, Nino Strachey reveals colourful new patterns of experiments in living which speak trenchantly to our own cultural moment. I want to sink myself into their literary output to understand the concepts they were grappling with. As scepticism, admiration, envy, and confusion ebb and flow between one chattering, seductive, thinking, inspiring generation and another, this is Gatsby made real.

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