Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Voyage Out, by Virginia Woolf

Title: The Voyage Out
Author: Virginia Woolf
Published:  1915
Challenges: A Read-Along, and The Classics Club

The first time I read Virginia Woolf, it was not a great experience.  I almost gave up reading Mrs. Dalloway because it was not in typical story format.  Then I had some coaching on how to read Mrs. Dalloway, and I survived.  Later, I read some history on Woolf, and I realized that I felt compassion for her, as she had many internal struggles.  Who cannot relate to internal struggles?  I resolved to probably try another Woolf novel at a later time.

Well, that was a few years ago, so when o at Behold the Stars suggested a Read-Along of The Voyage Out, Woolf's first novel, I raised my hand and committed myself.  My only regret was that I did not have a hard copy of the book and instead saved it to my iCloud Reader (or whatever it is called) via, and read it on my laptop.  That was the first time I ever read "a book" on my laptop, and I really did not like it.  It was not convenient, and I could not write notes in the margins.  Yes, I could type notes if I highlighted a word, but it was not effective for my brain.  It was not active reading.  So, I hope never to do that again.  I believe my experience would have been even better had I the hard copy.

Nevertheless, I still had a great reading escapade with The Voyage Out.  It felt like my own emotional journey through the lives of these several English men and women, on a voyage to South America, where they spent some intimate time together.  

One of the main characters is a young woman, Rachel, who lived a sheltered existence up until this voyage, when her aunt took her under her care, to expose her to the world.  It was like a coming-of-age experience for Rachel.  We witnessed her self-discovery as she developed opinions and thoughts and ideas about life.  She even fell in love (for the first time) - I think, though I cannot say that she confirmed it herself.  Her lover certainly claimed she was, but that was he defining her own feelings for her.  I would have to look back to remember.

The other characters also seemed to be effected by Rachel's new journey and new birth.  In true Woolf fashion, we knew what all of the characters were thinking and feeling.  Everyone had their own opinions and experiences, and everyone was affected differently.  

There were numerous ideas woven throughout the story to consider: such as life and death, youth and age, love and marriage, self-education and ignorance, wealth and poverty, the separation between women and men, dreams and reality, and I know there were many more, but after one read, I only scratched the surface.  

The ending took me by surprise, and I was somewhat disappointed at first; but in the overall comprehension of the work, it made sense, especially considering Woolf's feelings on women and men, love and marriage, and life and death.  It helped to know a little about the author to understand her worldview and why she would conclude this way.  So the surprise ending actually tied everything together for me.   

I hope to reread this again someday, but only after I get a hard copy.

To see other reviews of this book, visit: 


o said...

I know your pain - reading on a laptop is horrendous. I actually read a play this morning (supposedly a Shakespeare play - Double Falsehood) on my laptop - first time I've managed to get from start to finish. What a headache!

I'm glad you enjoyed this. As for the ending - it makes sense. I might have preferred a different ending (I was disappointed as well), but it does work I think.

Thanks for joining in with this! :)

Ruth said...

I think I enjoyed it most because it is knee-deep in relationships.

And I didn't see that ending coming - though I should have. But I still wonder what would have happened had it ended the way I expected.

Jason C said...

I refuse to read a book off a computer screen ever again. I'm cool with e-readers though, at least they don't strain the eyes.

Great review! I have been struggling to do a proper write-up for this novel myself. There is so much to discuss and yet, I have no idea where to start. The ending took me by surprise as well and I am still trying to wrap my head around it. I have a few ideas of why Woolf would choose to end the novel on such a gloomy note but still remain uncertain as to her true intentions.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Jason. I am interested in your opinion as to why she did end this story the way she did. I always think it reflects her own internal conflict, but maybe you have more details than that.