Review: The Waves

Is it possible to admire a writer but not completely love their work? It might sound contradicting, but that is how I feel about Virginia Woolf. The writing is outstanding. Woolf effortlessly forms perfect and palpable phrases. But similarly to Mrs. Dalloway and To The Lighthouse, The Waves doesn’t have a specific plot. It’s a book about life and the passing of time.

The Waves centers on six characters: Bernard, Neville, Louis, Susan, Rhoda, and Jinny. It begins when they are all kids at a school playground and transitions until they are senior adults. The stream of consciousness jumps between these characters, often describing the same situations but having very different viewpoints. One of the main themes is how friendships can distort your sense of self. All characters have insecurities and create their inner identities based on how they think the rest sees them.

The description of waves itself sets the mood for the entire book. The crashing waves, sunrises, sunsets, the chirping of birds, and falling leaves, all symbolize the constant changes and the inevitable ending – death.

So while I did enjoy this book overall, at times I felt remorsefully bored and just wanted something to happen. And while many things do happen, at the same time, it feels like it doesn’t. Virginia Woolf may not be for everybody, her books represent a challenge but it’s worth giving them a try.

I was always going to the bookcase for another sip of the divine specific.

Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Review: A Room Of One’s Own

First published in 1929, “A Room Of One’s Own” is an extended essay based on two lectures that Woolf did a year before. Here she explores the role of women in literature throughout time until the present (or her present rather). Despite this text being nearly a century old, it’s still relevant today.

Woolf argues how literature has been predominantly a male territory. Women didn’t have access to education in previous centuries, and even those who did try to write were often criticized and minimized by their male counterparts. It’s interesting how she mentions that the topics considered important were war and sports —activities only allowed for men. Yet topics regarding domestic living and dresses were categorized under “trivial”. But how were women supposed to write about war and sports when their day-to-day life consisted of other activities?

In sum, she concludes that for a woman to write a novel, she must have a room of one’s own (space and privacy) and earn 500 pounds per year (which today would be approximately 30,000£).

Despite presenting a difficult scenario for her fellow listeners back then —and probably still difficult for her readers now—, she still encourages them to write. And not only to write as a “woman” but as a person. A whole person, embracing both the feminine and masculine parts of our minds.

When Virginia Woolf wrote this, though women had gained more rights, there was still a long process ahead. If only she could still be alive and see all the women writers that have received prizes, and how many have become best-sellers. I believe she’d be surprised and proud of how literature has become more accessible now — for both readers and writers.

“Literature is open to everybody. Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind”.

Virginia Woolf, A Room Of One’s Own

Review: To The Lighthouse

Hi there! This is the second book I read by Virginia Woolf. The first was Mrs. Dalloway which I read two years ago. And now I thought it was finally time to read To The Lighthouse. At first, it took me a while to get used to her style of writing again. And I can see why Virginia Woolf may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The style she uses, which is called stream of consciousness, can be confusing and a bit hard to keep up with. It consists of the character’s thoughts, about random things and sometimes there’s no chronological order between these thoughts — just how the mind works. Not to mention, in this flow of words, she jumps from one character to another without any previous notice. In the beginning, it all feels a bit strange, but once you start reading and get used to it, it’s hard not to admire Woolf and her words.

To The Lighthouse centers on the Ramsay family, Mrs. Ramsay in particular. To be honest, the plot itself is not outstanding. It describes the day-to-day events that occur in her house, near the sea, where they have a clear view of the lighthouse. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay have eight children, from toddlers to teens, who go on and about their day. Mrs. Ramsay plays and takes care of the youngest one, and her main worry is the weather and if they’ll be able to go to the lighthouse.

It’s important to point out that Mr. Ramsay is a particular character who, alongside some other secondary ones, represents the male chauvinism of that time. He is also very insecure about this profession and the legacy of his book and seeks other people’s acceptance — especially his wife’s. Another important character is Lily Briscoe, who becomes a protagonist towards the end, and we get to see things from her perspective. She represents a feminist who doesn’t conform to the norms of her time, a woman who wishes independence and rejects marriage, something she knows Mrs. Ramsay wouldn’t approve of nor comprehend. Just like Mr. Ramsay, she is also insecure about her work, a painting she’s been working on for years.

The family returns to their beach house a decade later and invites Lily to spend time with them. In the end, Mr. Ramsay and his two youngest children finally pay a visit to the lighthouse while Lily stays in the house to finally finish her painting. That is when she realizes that what matters most is the final result of her vision, not the legacy it leaves.

I’m omitting certain parts in order not to spoil it for anyone, but really, there aren’t that many major events. And the only “big” events are briefly described in a few sentences — which can be offputting if you were looking for a plot with twists and turns.

While I enjoyed it (though towards the end it became really slow, to be honest), I’d suggest you first read Mrs. Dalloway before first. In this novel, the effects of the stream of consciousness are more intense, hence increasing its difficulty. But this is what makes Virginia Woolf’s work different. Her prose is remarkable, there’s deep character development and the scenery and events are described with rich metaphors (and I’m a sucker for metaphors).

“𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚎𝚕𝚝 𝚊𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚊𝚐𝚘𝚗𝚒𝚜𝚝, 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎.”

Have you read To The Lighthouse yet? Let me know!

‘Til next time!