The Author Stories Podcast Episode 567 | Katharine Smyth Interview
My guest today is Katharine Smyth, author of All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf
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A wise, lyrical memoir about the power of literature to help us read our own lives—and see clearly the people we love most.
Katharine Smyth was a student at Oxford when she first read Virginia Woolf’s modernist masterpiece To the Lighthouse in the comfort of an English sitting room, and in the companionable silence she shared with her father. After his death—a calamity that claimed her favorite person—she returned to that beloved novel as a way of wrestling with his memory and understanding her own grief.
Smyth’s story moves between the New England of her childhood and Woolf’s Cornish shores and Bloomsbury squares, exploring universal questions about family, loss, and homecoming. Through her inventive, highly personal reading of To the Lighthouse, and her artful adaptation of its groundbreaking structure, Smyth guides us toward a new vision of Woolf’s most demanding and rewarding novel—and crafts an elegant reminder of literature’s ability to clarify and console.
Braiding memoir, literary criticism, and biography, All the Lives We Ever Lived is a wholly original debut: a love letter from a daughter to her father, and from a reader to her most cherished author.
Katharine Smyth is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. After graduating magna cum laude from Brown University, she worked as an editorial assistant and researcher at The Paris Review and Radar Magazine. In 2010, she received her MFA in nonfiction from Columbia, where she was awarded a Dean’s Fellowship, the university’s highest merit-based award. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Paris Review, Literary Hub, The Point, DuJour, Poets & Writers, and Domino, among other publications. In 2014, her essay “Prey” was selected as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2014. Her first book, All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf, was published by Crown in January 2019 and named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.