I have finished Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Voyage Out’, swept away by the final fifty pages such that the ending past in a torrent, the pages flicking past, till with a sigh I set the book aside and sank into thought.
This is the first novel by Virginia Woolf that I have ever read. Virginia Woolf! How the name resonates, how rich the associations, how high and perilous the expectations!
I must admit to finding it tedious at times, especially in the middle, when the conversations seemed interminable, the expiditions to and from the villa and hotel endless and repetitious, the brilliant analysis of Rachel and Hewett’s relationship a reductio ad absurdum. I would pick up the novel, and wander through its pages in a distracted daze, drawn to earth by the language, but inevitably finding myself sufficiently disinterested as to set it down.
But ah! That final terrible illness, the vivid, feverish account of Rachel’s nightmarish submergence into delusion, and Hewett’s agonizing suspense and dismay! Perfectly constructed, made terrible for the preceding 300 pages of slow development! Such versimilitude.
I must draw back and apply a more rigorous examination of this novel. Discipline! But such basic questions like ‘What was it all about?’ seem to falter and grow unimportant. What mattered to me was the language, the metaphors and descriptions. Not as distinctive and ideosyncratic as Lawrence’s, where the sheer richness made you ever conscious of the text itself, of its brilliance, and established a distance between you and tale, but rather a deft sharpness, an amazing perspicacity in tracing and delineating the progression of moods, the mercurial shifts of temperment, an amazing acuity of human understanding and perception.
Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out: Such a display of potential!
I’ll think some more on this novel, will mull over my own initial boredom and the final quickening of interest, and then post a more reasoned and incisive critique (ha!).