Virginia Woolf: The Waves
Many consider this to be Woolf’s masterpiece. For others, it is impenetrable, abandoning all pretense at plot. Woolf starts with a lyrical description of a sunrise over the sea and ends with sunset. In other words, the novel is the course of a day. But, at the same time, mixed in with the course of the sun, we follow the thoughts (no spoken words) of six characters (three men and three women – Bernard, Neville, Jinny, Susan, Rhoda and Louis), as they move through life, from the age of 6 to late adulthood and death. They are separate beings, each one with his/her own life, but at times they merge, either by events (the death of their common friend and Neville’s lover, Percival) or because we do not see the boundary and, at times, nor do they (I cannot find any obstacle separating us.). Of course, this means that one of the keys to the novel is identity and where does our identity begin and end, particularly when we are very close to other people. But overall it is a lyrical – and not narrative – expression of live and lives, which has challenged many readers. Woolf herself said How odd that people can read that difficult grinding stuff. It is well worth the effort.
First published in 1931 by Hogarth Press