ASTONISHING NEW TALENT: While studying writing at Columbia, Smyth was awarded a Dean’s Fellowship, the university’s highest merit-based honor, and her essay “Prey” was selected as a Notable Essay by John Jeremiah Sullivan for The Best American Essays in 2014. Her prose is both muscular and refined, lyrical yet precise.
PERENNIALLY POPULAR SUBJECT: There seems to be almost unlimited appetite among readers for Virginia Woolf and reimaginings of her work and life. All the Lives We Ever Lived breathes new life into a writer most readers think they know.
RELIABLE AUDIENCE: Books about books—and their writers’ relationships to reading—are favorites of independent booksellers and bibliophiles.
“[Smyth’s] prose is so fluid and clear throughout that it’s not surprising to observe her view of her family, its cracks and fissures, sharpen into unsparing focus…. Her exploration of grown-up love, the kind that accounts for who the loved one actually is, not who you want him or her to be, gains power and grace as her story unfolds. I suspect her book could itself become solace for people navigating their way through the complexities of grief for their fallen idols. And they will be lucky to have it.”—Radhika Jones, New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“This is a transcendent book, not a simple meditation on one woman’s loss, but a reflection on all of our losses, on loss itself, on how to remember and commemorate our dead.”—Washington Post
“Katharine Smyth pulls off a tricky double homage in her beautifully written first book, a deft blend of memoir, biography, and literary criticism that’s a gift to readers drawn to big questions about time, memory, mortality, love and grief…. You’d be hard put to find a more moving appreciation of Woolf’s work.”—Heller McAlpin, Wall Street Journal
“Brilliant…Smyth’s beautiful debut is more tightly strung together than you’d imagine a memoir-cum-literary-requiem could be. It is innovative, like Woolf, in its power of association and its ability to transform the intangible nature of grief into a warm, graspable, fleshy mass.”—Vulture
“The affinity between Smyth and her subject is profound even on the sentence level. She writes in Woolfian rhythms. Her sentences cascade and linger over transcendent images… a consolation, a shelter and a community, an unending conversation about mortality and loss that creates unity from the fragmentation of life and death.”—HuffPost
“This gorgeous, moving book gracefully moves between memoir and literary criticism…. Smyth’s writing possesses a unique ability to wend its way into your head, traveling into all the darkest corners of your mind, triggering thoughts on love and loss and family and memory you hadn’t known were lurking; it’s a profound experience, reading this book—one not to be missed.”—Nylon
“Smyth is an elegant writer and she explores her deep, complicated love for her father in lyrical yet restrained prose.”—Literary Review (UK)
“A conceptually ambitious and assured debut, successfully bridging memoir and literary criticism…. A work of incisive observation and analysis, exquisite writing, and an attempt to determine if there is ’any revelation that could lessen loss, that could help to make the fact of death okay.’”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“All The Lives We Ever Lived is a lyrical memoir about Katharine Smyth’s connection to Virginia Woolf’s writing, and the power of literature in our darkest times.”—Bustle
“[Smyth] expertly dissects the finest gradations of emotion in any given scene… All the Lives We Ever Lived is a powerful book, driven by the engine of Smyth’s controlled, rich description. It’s an astonishingly clear-eyed portrait of a person through myriad lenses, a kind of prismatic attempt to capture a life.”—The Boston Globe
“A daughter coping with her father’s illness and death takes a deep dive into Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse, looking for insight and comfort… . Other writers have attempted similarly braided memoirs with mixed success. Katharine Smyth…has more than lived up to her premise, delivering a lyrical and thoughtful examination of character, place and grief.”—Providence Journal
“Smyth’s prose pulsates with intensity, and its lyrical qualities make [the book] a moving one. Grief and its disconcerting effects take center stage. ‘It’s writers like Woolf, their refusal to give in to popular ideas about bereavement, who have helped me to accept the nature of this misery,’ Smyth writes. With her first book, Smyth is able to give that comfort to a new generation of readers as well.”—BookPage
“Powerful…What sets All the Lives apart from other memoirs about grief or alcoholism (and it has much to say about both topics) is that it is also a book about reading, the ways ‘the one book for every life’ can, in Smyth’s words, ‘reciprocate and even alter [our] experience’…. There are many lovely moments when Smyth’s prose soars into poetry.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
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