Based on new and original research, this is an enchanting and evocative memoir of Anne Thackeray Ritchie, daughter of the author of Vanity Fair and step-aunt of Virginia Woolf (who used her as the model for Mrs Hilbery in Night and Day). Anny was a fine writer, and her novels and memoirs were much praised, but she was loved even more for her muddled ways and great sympathy for others.
At the book's heart are two interwoven stories. The first is Anny's own inner life: her near-obsession with her father, William Makepeace Thackeray, her escape into writing, and her startling marriage to Richmond Ritchie, seventeen years her junior, her second-cousin and her godson. The second, tragic, strand is the tale of her sister Minny's passionate marriage to Leslie Stephen, the brilliant, mountain-climbing don, and of his second wife, the beautiful Julia Jackson, mother of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. The story has never been told in detail before, and it reveals a totally unknown picture of Leslie - a happy, energetic man - instead of the famously moody and intemperate figure he became after Minny's death.
The book also paints the world of Anny's intricate web of relations and friends - children's parties with the Dickens family, holidays with Julia Margaret Cameron and the Tennysons on the Isle of Wight, a dash to help a spinster cousin in Paris during the siege of 1870, intimate scenes with Browning in Rome and Ruskin on Lake Coniston. As we enter Anny's world, all these great characters appear in an unusual, more personal light. Meticulously researched, this intimate story draws not only on a wealth of letters, journals, hitherto unpublished sketches and photographs, but also on family legends passed down to the author through four generations. Illuminating, comic and touching, Anny reads like a novel, presenting a unique portrait of the rich literary world that formed the bridge between the Victorians and Bloomsbury.