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Virginia Woolf: The Voyage Out

Woolf’s first novel was very different from her later ones. It is essentially realistic in form. Many critics have compared it to a Jane Austen novel. It is the story of the rather unfinished Rachel Vinrace who journeys on a yacht to South America with her uncle and aunt, in the hope of broadening her education. Various other English characters are on the yacht, including the Dalloways, who we will meet in the later novel, Mrs. Dalloway. In South America she meets an aspiring English novelist, Terence Hewet, who wants to write a novel about silence. Unlike the other men she meets, Terence seems more interested in women and their experiences. Eventually, they fall in love and get engaged, determined to be equals. However, Rachel goes on an expedition, gets a disease and, after two weeks, dies. We do see the multiple viewpoints and the feminist perspective that we will see in her later novels, but this novel does not point the way to the Virginia Woolf who will become one of the great English novelists. It is interesting as an early Virginia Woolf but not much more.

Publishing history

First published in 1915 by Duckworth