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The Voyage Out (Twentieth Century Classics)…

The Voyage Out (Twentieth Century Classics) (original 1915; edition 1992)

by Virginia Woolf

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1,692194,219 (3.66)1 / 152
Title:The Voyage Out (Twentieth Century Classics)
Authors:Virginia Woolf
Info:Penguin Classics (1992), Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf (1915)



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English (17)  Spanish (2)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
I love this book ( )
  libsea | Apr 27, 2015 |
“I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one’s own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful”

I have spoken before about my relationship with Virginia Woolf, and my recent determination to read more of her work. I was glad, therefore to be given a chance to read her first novel for Behold the stars read-a-long. It is the one hundred year anniversary of the publication of this novel, something that I am glad is being celebrated. It is always so interesting to see where a great artist started – and Virginia Woolf must surely be that – often reading an author’s work in chronological order can be particularly rewarding.

“one never knows what any one feels. We’re all in the dark. We try to find out, but can you imagine anything more ludicrous than one person’s opinion of another person? One goes along thinking one knows; but one really doesn’t know.”

thevoyageout1The Voyage Out was apparently written by Woolf at a time when she herself was quite psychologically vulnerable – I think I would have guessed that from the novel itself – even if I hadn’t read that somewhere else. The themes of the novel are those of self-discovery, sexual awakening, death and femininity. There are voyages of discovery for Rachel – who at the start of the novel is a perhaps surprisingly naive young woman, even for the times in which she was living – and others whom she meets in the course of the novel. The sea voyage itself taking up only a part of the whole novel. One of the aspects I particularly liked in this novel – was the idea of knowing – or not knowing the people around us, how so often we assume things about people, think we know things while all the time we are terribly wrong, like Clarissa Dalloway – a minor character in this novel – who I don’t belive understands her husband as much as she thinks she does.

“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.”

Rachel Vinrace, is a young woman who having been living with her aunts in London, embarks upon a sea voyage, aboard her father’s ship to South America. The ship is primarily a cargo ship, but some special passengers are permitted by arrangement, and it is thus that Rachel finds herself among a slightly mismatched group of fellow travellers. In the company of her beautiful aunt Helen Ambrose and Uncle Ridley, Rachel meets Clarissa and Richard Dalloway – who are both a huge presence on the ship. Clarissa befriends Rachel, while her husband shows himself to be just a little predatory, they eventually leave the ship before its final destination.

The ship finally docks in South America – the exact location seems to be fictional and in a sense it is of no importance where these characters are thrown together – just that they are. In a place very different to home, where the rules aren’t necessarily exactly the same. In a place where those who are still young can contemplate all the future has to offer them now that the Victorian age is behind them, while the older generation can look on, reflecting perhaps on how it was for them. The Ambroses have a Villa for their exclusive use – within sight of a hotel, where a large group of English guests are already in residence. Rachel accompanies her aunt to the hotel, introductions are made, allegiances formed, excited plans for expeditions made. Here romances are inevitably started, – bearing in mind that this is a story written by Virginia Woolf – not Jane Austen, and not all ships make it back to harbour. I am really conscious of not wanting to say too much about this novel, in which in some senses, not much happens, but what does occur, is everything, so I am keeping this review fairly short – maybe Virgina Woolf really just needs to speak for herself, and there are many lovely sections I could quote, simply for the sake of it.

“The morning was hot, and the exercise of reading left her mind contracting and expanding like the main-spring of a clock, and the small noises of midday, which one can ascribe to no definite cause, in a regular rhythm. It was all very real, very big, very impersonal, and after a moment or two she began to raise her first finger and to let it fall on the arm of her chair so as to bring back to herself some consciousness of her own existence. She was next overcome by the unspeakable queerness of the fact that she should be sitting in an arm-chair, in the morning, in the middle of the world. Who were the people moving in the house–moving things from one place to another? And life, what was that? It was only a light passing over the surface and vanishing, as in time she would vanish, though the furniture in the room would remain. Her dissolution became so complete that she could not raise her finger any more, and sat perfectly still, listening and looking always at the same spot. It became stranger and stranger. She was overcome with awe that things should exist at all. . . She forgot that she had any fingers to raise. . . The things that existed were so immense and so desolate. . . She continued to be conscious of these vast masses of substance for a long stretch of time, the clock still ticking in the midst of the universal silence.”

There is both lightness and darkness in this novel – inevitably so, the simple human joy at being young and in love, smiling at one another with nothing needing to be said – Woolf captures that every bit as well as she captures the ageing beauty or the wannabe writer. several of the characters from the hotel – were almost completely faceless for me, I could barely distinguish between Mrs Flushing, Mrs Thornbury and Mrs Elliot – and that fact irritated me a little, though perhaps we aren’t meant to distinguish between them, they are of a type. However Helen, Rachel her young lover Terence, the Dalloways and St John Hirst are beautifully and delicately brought to life in this novel. The Voyage Out is perhaps (I am no expert) Virginia Woolf’s least experimental novel, in structure it is certainly far more conventional than many people perhaps associate with Woolf. I enjoyed it enormously, I was blown away by Orlando quite recently, and so I really think I have found the time in my life when Virginia Woolf is (hopefully) no longer a completely closed book. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Apr 14, 2015 |
Not quite what I was expecting — at times it's almost like one of E.M. Forster's "the English abroad" novels. But there are also some very characteristically Woolfish things about it. I loved the cameo appearance by the Dalloways and enjoyed the passages where Woolf suddenly started striding out confidently with something very like her mature style. It was interesting too to watch what were obviously the first sea-trials of the famous shifting-point-of-view narrative technique. So it definitely satisfies the rule that you can't have too much Virginia Woolf.

On the other hand, there are obviously some problems with it. The most glaring one is the accident of history: Woolf had a hard time with her health while she was writing the book (from 1910 onwards) and it took her so long to finish it that someone had shot an Archduke in the meantime, and a great deal of what she says about social status, work, death and suffering, religion, the role of women, Russia, etc. is totally and utterly irrelevant to the world of 1915. Or indeed to the post-war world. Anyway, the social satire in the book has been edited down and concealed to such an extent that you almost need a microscope to find it (she does discuss a few topics that might have been considered very daring at the time, had anyone noticed that they were there...). And it does ramble a bit. There are passages, especially in the "South American" part that just seem to duplicate each other, not really advancing either the action or our understanding of the characters. ( )
  thorold | Mar 9, 2015 |
I found this decidedly easier reading than the more experimental later novels (particularly The Waves, which required a high level of concentration. This was very moving in places, and contributes to understanding the later books too. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 11, 2014 |
I probably didn't do the book much justice by reading it in the space of a few months, and stopping halfway through to read something else. The characters and names were very confusing, but that's obviously my own fault, and not a critique of the book. I didn't see the end coming at all. Most importantly, I did live the writing. It was descriptive and effective and creative. But I'll probably have to read it again sometime in a more dedicated way. ( )
  GraceZ | Sep 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
So the story maunders on, and the fact that it is crowded with incident, most of it futile, and that the clever talk by every one continues in a confusing cataract in every chapter, does not save it from becoming extremely tedious.
added by Nickelini | editNew York Times (Jun 18, 1920)

» Add other authors (50 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Virginia Woolfprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gadda Conti, GiuseppeForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Previtali, OrianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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As the streets that lead from the Strand to the Embankment are very narrow, it is better not to walk down them arm-in-arm.
In the streets of London where beauty goes unregarded, eccentricity must pay the penalty.
She looked forward to seeing them as civilised people generally look forward to the first sight of civilised people, as though they were of the nature of an approaching physical discomfort—a tight shoe or a draughty window.
"I have a weakness for people who can't begin."
Each of the ladies, being after the fashion of their sex, highly trained in promoting men's talk without listening to it, could think—about the education of children, about the use of fog sirens in an opera—without betraying herself.
[...], for if Rachel were ever to think, feel, laugh, or express herself, instead of dropping milk from a height as though to see what kind of drops it made, she might be interesting though never exactly pretty.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156028050, Paperback)

Woolf’s first novel is a haunting book, full of light and shadow. It takes Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose and their niece, Rachel, on a sea voyage from London to a resort on the South american coast. “It is a strange, tragic, inspired book whose scene is a South americanca not found on any map and reached by a boat which would not float on any sea, an americanca whose spiritual boundaries touch Xanadu and Atlantis” (E. M. Forster).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:14 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

We meet young free-spirited Rachel Vinrace aboard her father's ship, the Euphrosyne, departing London for South America. Surrounded by a clutch of genteel companions -- among them her aunt Helen, who judges Rachel to be "vacillating," "emotional," and "more than normally incompetent for her years" -- Rachel displays a startling maturity when she finds her engagement to the writer Terence Hewet listing toward disaster.… (more)

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