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The Voyage Out (Collins Classics)

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Virginia Woolf is a readable and well illustrated biography by John Lehmann, who at one point worked as her assistant and business partner at the Hogarth Press. It is described by the blurb as ‘A critical biography of Virginia Woolf containing illustrations that are a record of the Bloomsbury Group and the literary and artistic world that surrounded a writer who is immensely popular today’. This is an attractive and very accessible introduction to the subject which has been very popular with readers ever since it was first published.. Chapter V. The ship encounters a stormy passage at sea, which lays everybody low for two days. Helen comforts Mrs Dalloway with champagne. Meanwhile Richard Dalloway follows Rachel into her cabin and kisses her impulsively. That night Rachel has disturbing dreams.

To the Lighthouse (1927) is the second of the twin jewels in the crown of her late experimental phase. It is concerned with the passage of time, the nature of human consciousness, and the process of artistic creativity. Woolf substitutes symbolism and poetic prose for any notion of plot, and the novel is composed as a tryptich of three almost static scenes – during the second of which the principal character Mrs Ramsay dies – literally within a parenthesis. The writing is lyrical and philosophical at the same time. Many critics see this as her greatest achievement, and Woolf herself realised that with this book she was taking the novel form into hitherto unknown territory. Helen Ambrose’s fictional existence is happening one hundred years before my real-life one but in some respects we aren’t very different. Like me, Helen is a middle-aged woman who reads a lot. Unlike me, Helen can’t share thoughts about books with the world via a computer screen; her book thoughts are kept within the confines of her mind while her creative urges are directed instead towards her embroidery screen. But Helen, as we soon find out, likes to do things differently, even when it comes to embroidery: she chose a thread from the vari-coloured tangle that lay in her lap, and sewed red into the bark of a tree, or yellow into a river torrent.Virginia Woolf is rightly celebrated as one of the most talented innovators of the modernist period for the work she produced between Jacob’s Room in 1922 and The Waves in 1932. For that reason her earlier first novel The Voyage Out (1915) is often classified as ‘traditional’ or ‘conventional’. That is partly because its main subject is a young woman’s ‘coming of age’, partly because the narrative follows a linear chronology, and partly because the book contains a substantial proportion of well-observed middle-class social life which could have come from any number of nineteenth century novels – from Jane Austen to George Meredith.

Eric Warner makes this point when he remarks that ‘Rather than let Rachel fall into the end of banal routine and sacrificed spirit, [Woolf] kills the girl off with an unnamed tropical fever’. In contrast, in The Waves, the ‘contagion of the world’s slow stain’ feared in The Voyage Out is realised (see Eric Warner, ‘Some Aspects of Romanticism in the Work of Virginia Woolf’ (D. Phil. thesis, Oxford University, 1980) pp. 119, 373). A remark which Alice van Buren Kelley makes about Woolf’s second novel links it with The Voyage Out: ‘ Night and Day ends before the lovers can experience those blows to vision that life in the real world invariably inflicts upon those who look for unity’ (Kelley, Virginia Woolf, p. 62). The Voyage Out is Virginia Woolf's first novel. Even then she has been quite obsessed with the "voyage" to find the true meaning and true path in life. In the story, her characters take on a physical voyage from their home in England to South America. While on this physical voyage out, interacting with one another, they also take on a voyage out into their inner selves, questioning, and re-questioning who they truly are. The physical and mental "voyages" complement and completes each other and produces one journey in search of self. Virginia's ability to strike this physical and mental balance in her very first work says a lot about her potential, which was fully developed later. It shines a light on Woolf’s developing technique and its evolution into the free, indirect style for which she became famous in later novels such as Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and The Waves.

My Book Notes

Chapter XXIV. Sitting in the hotel, Rachel comes to an appreciation of her independent identity, even though she is joining herself to Hewet for the rest of her life. Miss Allan finishes her book on the English poets. Evelyn envies Susan and Rachel for being engaged, but she herself dreams of becoming a revolutionary. When Clarissa Dalloway exclaims: "How much rather one would be a murderer than a bore!" that resonates with our time's craving for interesting crime rather than virtuous mediocrity. But it also shows the strange carelessness which is a prelude to the highly unnecessary Great War. The novel was begun in 1907, at the time when Picasso experimented with the break-up of the traditional correspondence between colour and form and object, most notably evident in "The Demoiselles D'Avignon". This development towards a new interpretation of the world is very much visible in "The Voyage Out" as well, where many facets, colours and ideas are brought together in a painting of a society in a state of change. With hints of Jane Austen, The Voyage Out is a softer and more traditional novel than Virginia Woolf’s later work, even as its poetic style and innovative technique—with detailed portraits of characters’ inner lives and mesmeric shifts between the quotidian and the profound—reflect Woolf’s signature style. Helen, Ridley, and Rachel are at the resort only a short time before the two women become friends with several people staying in a hotel down the hill from the Ambroses’ villa; the two most important of these new friends are St. John Hirst, a scholar from Oxford, and his friend Terrence Hewet, an aspiring novelist. Hirst, who perceives most women as “objects,” finds unexpected pleasure in talking with Helen, though he finds Rachel annoyingly unthinking and unread. Hewet’s relationship with Rachel is based upon an intuitive and emotional, rather than intellectual, understanding, and he spends much time defending Hirst to her, assuaging the pain and anger she feels as a result of various insulting and condescending comments Hirst makes to her, and helping her to look at herself objectively and even laugh at herself.

Woolf began work on The Voyage Out by 1910 (perhaps as early as 1907) and had finished an early draft by 1912. The novel had a long and difficult gestation; it was not published until 1915, as it was written during a period in which Woolf was especially psychologically vulnerable. [1] She suffered from periods of depression and at one point attempted suicide. [2] The resultant work contained the seeds of all that would blossom in her later work: the innovative narrative style, the focus on feminine consciousness, sexuality and death. [3]As I admire Virginia Woolf immensely and identify with her issues and topics, I tried very hard to concentrate deeply enough to be able to read in a very distractive environment - squished into a full train. So let's just say that I have taken "The Voyage Out" on a journey of its own, exposed it to the society in which I live and breathe and read. And when it comes to characters, plots and settings, I find Virginia's universe still quite intact, despite our advanced technology. More than once, I thought of what she would have written about my contemporaries, who try to "open my mind to the modern world" in the same way the Dalloways and other socialites try to "open" the erudite Oxbridge minds of that time, who unfortunately do not know how o dress for dinner.

Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882. After her father's death in 1904 Virginia and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, moved to Bloomsbury and became the centre of ‘The Bloomsbury Group’. This informal collective of artists and writers exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture. The novel begins in London, then moves via a very convincing storm at sea to Portugal, where the Dalloways join the ship. This part of the narrative is quite credible, and is possibly based on a journey at sea Virginia Woolf made to Portugal with her younger brother Adrian in 1905. But after the Dalloways are dropped off (almost parenthetically) in North Africa the location switches with virtually no transition to the fictitious Santa Marina. After missing my train station once and drawing attention to myself by inappropriate, lonely (loony) laughter, I became more cautious while reading in public. But today, I embarked on the last chapters, and there are things you can't help if you have got to know characters closely, and they all of a sudden die on you! So I sat on the train, crying, tears ruining my make-up and making my immediate environment incredibly uncomfortable. Which led me to reflect that we are not that much better at dealing with people's emotions nowadays than the famously uptight Belle Epoque society I was reading about! Santa Marina. Fictional South American town where most of the action takes place. In this exotic setting Rachel might discover herself free from the usual Victorian restrictions for women. However, because the English tourists transport their class and gender expectations to the natural, unpretentious Santa Marina setting, Rachel does not escape the restrictions of Victorian society. The hotel that houses the English tourists and the Villa San Gervasio, where Rachel stays with the Ambroses, symbolize her struggle to find herself. Exoticized and romanticized through its picturesque mountains, dusty villages, and astonishing vistas, the landscape is depicted in an impressionistic manner which implies a freedom of vision, allowing Rachel the opportunity to develop free from the Victorian standards represented by the hotel guests. The tropical heat, cool water, and glorious lighting symbolize a fearful sensuality that directs Rachel toward self-discovery. But this is a Woolf novel, perched astride two centuries. It is Woolf’s first novel in fact, the idea for which she developed as early as 1905 when she herself was Rachel’s age but already seeing the world not as Rachel does but rather as the older, more free-spirited and less anchored-in-time character, Helen might. And, like Helen, Woolf looks forward in this book, not only towards the freedoms that women will gain in the twentieth century, but to her own novels yet to come. The Clarissa in the quote above is Clarissa Dalloway who will feature in Woolf’s fourth book, Mrs. Dalloway, alongside her husband Richard, mercifully given a more mute role in the later work than he has here. The other male characters in The Voyage Out are prototypes of Jacob Flanders from Jacob's Room, and Neville, Louis and Bernard from The Waves. There is also an artist character in The Voyage Out, a foreshadowing of Lily Briscoe in To the Lighthouse. There are even hints of the exoticism of Orlando to be found here.


A young woman learns about life, and love found and lost, in this thought-provoking debut novel by one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant and prolific writers—with an introduction by Elisa Gabbert, author of The Unreality of Memory

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