I've loved each volume of Woolf's diaries so far, but this has been the best yet. It spans a time period in which she came into her own, both as a person and as a writer. As it opens, she's preparing Mrs. Dalloway for publication, and goes on to write To the Lighthouse, Orlando, A Room of One's Own, Being Ill, and begins The Waves--some of her finest works.
The diaries themselves show a woman becoming more confident and recognizing that her work was valued by others as well, including monetarily. She has moments of gladness over being able to buy a new dress or a new chair without it causing significant financial distress, and she works on her skills in terms of saying no to things that wouldn't help her forward her career or were simply not valuable enough.
She also draws portraits of people she knows and meets, but she also has a razor-sharp wit and isn't afraid to use it. She wrote witheringly (but also with striking imagination and imagery) of Princess Anne of Lowenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg, a German princess with a mania for aviation who was a passenger on an attempted first-transatlantic flight that disappeared into the ocean:
"The Flying Princess, I forget her name, has been drowned in her purple leather breeches. I suppose so at least. Their petrol gave out about midnight on Thursday, when the aeroplane must have come gently down upon the long slow Atlantic waves. I suppose they burnt a light which showed streaky on the water for a time. There they rested a moment or two. The pilots, I think, looked back at the broad cheeked desperate eyed vulgar princess in her purple breeches & I suppose made some desperate dry statement--how the game was up: sorry; fortune against them; & she just glared; & then a wave broke over the wing; & the machine tipped. And she said something theatrical I daresay; nobody was sincere; all acted a part; nobody shrieked; Luck against us--something of that kind, they said, & then So long, & first one man was washed off & went under, & then a great wave came & the Princess threw up her arms & went down; & the third man sat saved for a second looking at the rolling waves, so patient so implacable & the moon gravely regarding; & then with a dry snorting sound he too was tumbled off & rolled over, & the aeroplane rocked & rolled--miles from anywhere off Newfoundland, while I slept at Rodmell, & [Leonard] was dining with the Craniums in London."
I look forward to starting Volume Four, but with a little trepidation; at some point in the next two volumes, this confident, intelligent, interesting/interested woman is going to lose that and end up committing suicide. But at least for now, it was a joy to see her coming into her own.