April is the Cruellest Month
It’s not easy being the daughter of a famous artist, who would rather talk about paint than about the problems of an adolescent girl.
March 1941. The bombing of London is at its peak when a deeply depressed Virginia Woolf fills her coat pockets with stones and walks into the River Ouse. It is not the first time she has suffered a nervous collapse, but when a bomb destroys the publishing house that she runs with her husband it also wipes out what remains of her faith in humanity.
And yet April is de wreedste maand (April is the Cruellest Month) is not a gloomy book at all. During the search for the body of their world-famous aunt, which goes on for weeks, nephew Quentin and niece Angelica reminisce about their happy childhood among a community of artists in the Sussex countryside. It is only at a later stage, and indirectly, that they become involved in the fight against fascism, which they would dearly have loved to stay out of.
The children’s personal development is in the foreground of the story. What’s it like when you don’t have to go to school and you can do whatever you want to? How does it feel for a girl to grow up with a mother who’s an artist, who doesn’t live with her husband, and who would rather talk about paint than about the things adolescent girls would like to discuss?
Luckily, Angelica has her aunt Virginia, who plays ingenious story-telling games with her, and takes her to London, where she fantasizes about the lives of all the people she encounters, just like in Woolf’s best-known book, Mrs Dalloway.
April is the Cruellest Month, with its title taken from a poem by family friend T.S. Eliot, is an understated tribute to Woolf’s work. That literary restraint is precisely what reveals the writer’s talent. So cultural history’s not exciting enough for teens? Rindert Kromhout is a master of subtle story-telling and has turned his fascination for the members of the Bloomsbury Group, who were so successful between the wars, into gripping literature for young adults.