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review 2019-10-30 21:27
The Voyage Out
The Voyage Out - Virginia Woolf

St. John had just come through the swing door. He was rather blown about by the wind, and his cheeks looked terribly pale, unshorn, and cavernous. After taking off his coat he was going to pass straight through the hall and up to his room, but he could not ignore the presence of so many people he knew, especially as Mrs. Thornbury rose and went up to him, holding out her hand. But the shock of the warm lamp-lit room, together with the sight of so many cheerful human beings sitting together at their ease, after the dark walk in the rain, and the long days of strain and horror, overcame him completely. He looked at Mrs. Thornbury and could not speak.

Every one was silent. Mr. Pepper’s hand stayed upon his Knight. Mrs. Thornbury somehow moved him to a chair, sat herself beside him, and with tears in her own eyes said gently, “You have done everything for your friend."

Ok, please don't look at my rating for The Voyage Out and think that I hated the book. I really didn't. 

In fact, I found much to love about the book and a whole new appreciation for Woolf when reading the story. I also really, really want to read her other books now, even The Waves, and I definitely want to re-read Mrs. Dalloway

 

For one thing, I'm absolutely blown away that Woolf wrote this in 1912 then edited the book and essentially censored herself until this edition was published in 1915. 

1915! Think of it: We have discussions of women's suffrage, sexuality (in various forms), depression, suicide, the snobbishness of the English class structure, the value of art versus commerce or other, more rational and practical, pursuits, ... We have a story of a young woman becoming her own self, young men finding their purpose in life, older people reflecting on their journey, and so much more. All in all, The Voyage Out is a story of many rites of passage. It's fabulously intricate and connects its characters to each other and their surroundings.

 

The Voyage Out had addressed to many aspects that I have loved in most the the books that have become my favourites over the years. And again, this was published in 1915, which still makes me shake my head a little.

 

And yet, I cannot say that I loved this book, or even liked it a lot. I loved parts of it, but I also found the reading experience a struggle.

The plot of the story only reveals itself at the very end, which is a challenge for me as I love to see at least a hint of a plot when I read a book.

So, it is fair to say that the book is solely based on us getting to know and spend time with characters. This takes up a lot of time, and as much of the story takes place on a ship and in a hotel, there are lots and lots of characters. However, despite being amused that this is the book where Woolf first introduces that Dalloways (and Richard turns out to be a bit of an old lech - Woolf was much more sympathetic to him when she wrote Mrs Dalloway ten years later) it took me over half of the book to really care for the characters, except for Rachel, our MC, who was interesting from the start. 

I also struggled with Woolf's writing. Not so much the flow or narrative style - she had not gone full-on stream-of-consciousness in this book - but the sheer verbosity of writing. Sure, there were some very beautiful passages and my paperback is lined with scribbles and highlights (I'm a scribbler. Get over it!), but it was hard work not to miss the really fabulous parts in the mass of words that seemed to serve little purpose or seemed go off to describe trivialities.   

 

So, there we have it. The Voyage Out was a struggle, but I am glad I've read it. Now, I'm looking forward to getting to her 1929 work A Room of One's Own. I have a feeling that this will pick up many of the themes that The Voyage Out touched on and that Woolf felt she needed to cut for fear of being labelled too rebellious or modern at the time that The Voyage Out was written, and hence risk never being published again.

 

“We’re such lucky people,” she said, looking at her husband. “We really have no wants.”

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text 2019-10-30 00:10
Reading progress update: I've read 92%.
The Voyage Out - Virginia Woolf

So close to finishing, but this is not a book I'm going to give up sleep for.

It is full of incredible ideas for a book written in 1915, tho the first draft of 1911 was even more explicit (then fell victim to censorship by Woolf herself), but ... it is not Gaudy Night or its sequel.

 

Yup. Gaudy Night is still THE book that I am measuring all other books with similar themes by. Apparently, this is a thing this year. 

And yes, so far, Woolf (nor anyone else) has not risen to the challenge.

 

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text 2019-10-29 22:48
Reading progress update: I've read 83%.
The Voyage Out - Virginia Woolf

That was the strange thing, that one did not know where one was going, or what one wanted, and followed blindly, suffering so much in secret, always unprepared and amazed and knowing nothing; but one thing led to another and by degrees something had formed itself out of nothing, and so one reached at last this calm, this quiet, this certainty, and it was this process that people called living. Perhaps, then, every one really knew as she knew now where they were going; and things formed themselves into a pattern not only for her, but for them, and in that pattern lay satisfaction and meaning. When she looked back she could see that a meaning of some kind was apparent in the lives of her aunts, and in the brief visit of the Dalloways whom she would never see again, and in the life of her father.

The sound of Terence, breathing deep in his slumber, confirmed her in her calm.

This book has really grown on me. 

 

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text 2019-10-29 00:02
Reading progress update: I've read 55%.
The Voyage Out - Virginia Woolf

“You write novels?” she asked.

For the moment he could not think what he was saying. He was overcome with the desire to hold her in his arms.

“Oh yes,” he said. “That is, I want to write them.”

She would not take her large grey eyes off his face. “Novels,” she repeated. “Why do you write novels? You ought to write music. Music, you see”—she shifted her eyes, and became less desirable as her brain began to work, inflicting a certain change upon her face—“music goes straight for things. It says all there is to say at once. With writing it seems to me there’s so much”—she paused for an expression, and rubbed her fingers in the earth—“scratching on the matchbox. Most of the time when I was reading Gibbon this afternoon I was horribly, oh infernally, damnably bored!”

She gave a shake of laughter, looking at Hewet, who laughed too.

I somehow get the feeling that Woolf is mocking me.

I also have a feeling this might be a convo Woolf might have had with Leonard.

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text 2019-10-28 23:28
Reading progress update: I've read 52%.
The Voyage Out - Virginia Woolf

“Nothin’ that’s more than twenty years old interests me,” she continued. “Mouldy old pictures, dirty old books, they stick ’em in museums when they’re only fit for burnin’.”

“I quite agree,” Helen laughed. “But my husband spends his life in digging up manuscripts which nobody wants.”

She was amused by Ridley’s expression of startled disapproval.

Well, this is not Forster, and I am sure Woolf could have saved us a few dozen pages. However, this is also kind of incredible in that the slow, sloooow, development does create some deep knowledge of the characters...and much like the people we meet on the journey and at the resort, the more I get to know the characters the better I like and understand what Woolf was doing here. 

 

Don't pick this up if you're looking for a plot, tho. This book has never even been lying on the same desk as a plot outline.

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