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Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
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Jacob's Room (original 1922; edition 2011)

by Virginia Woolf

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1,500None4,932 (3.53)1 / 119
Member:BenDV
Title:Jacob's Room
Authors:Virginia Woolf
Info:CreateSpace (2011), Paperback, 128 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf (1922)

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English (16)  French (1)  All languages (17)
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Jacob's Room marked the genesis of the inventive style (where 'one thing should open out of another'—V.W., diary entry) that would evolve into the mastery Woolf displays in her later novels. It's possible that readers who have already come to appreciate the splendor of books such as To the Lighthouse and The Waves may be underwhelmed by this slender novel. However, it still has much to offer if one comes to it with the right frame of mind, namely that of not expecting perfection. Instead we find, in their embryonic stages, snatches of the cotton wool Woolf pulls apart so carefully for us to see in those later works.And the notes accumulate. And the telephones ring. And everywhere we go wires and tubes surround us to carry the voices that try to penetrate before the last card is dealt and the days are over. 'Try to penetrate', for as we lift the cup, shake the hand, express the hope, something whispers, Is this all? Can I never know, share, be certain? Am I doomed all my days to write letters, send voices, which fall upon the tea-table, fade upon the passage, making appointments, while life dwindles, to come and dine? Yet letters are venerable; and the telephone valiant, for the journey is a lonely one, and if bound together by notes and telephones we went in company, perhaps—who knows?— we might talk by the way.
( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
Virginia Woolf is an author I've always felt I should have read so I was thrilled when this novella showed up in the mail as part of the book club I belong too. The synapses didn't sound exactly thrilling but I was certainly game to reading this. The book started out great for me a we got to know Betty Flanders, and through her, her little boy, the middle son, Jacob. Then suddenly we are transported to Jacob at college and the story became very heavy for me as Jacob, his friend and professors rambled through academia. Oh my, I wanted to use my 50-page rule and DNF this book around this point but I decided to persevere because 1) the purpose of my belonging to this book club is to widen my range of "classic" authors and 2) it wouldn't take me that long to read it. So I gave myself 50 pages a day to read and finished in 4 days. As I started each day it was a hard slog but as I got into it about 25 pages I was enjoying the experience and pleased with my read at the end of my daily "section". There really isn't any plot here, I found Woolf's writing very vivid and expressive but sometimes was not sure what the point was. I enjoyed the parts where the women were the main focus and we learned of Jacob through their eyes, though we never really know Jacob at all. The parts where Jacob is the main focus or that are all men were really boring for me; I felt like Jacob needed a woman's touch to be interesting. I've heard Woolf's style of writing, "stream of consciousness" talked about so often that I was rather disappointed that I didn't really see what the big deal was. The narration does flow in a distracted sort of way with themes and topics popping up here and there as they come to mind but that didn't bother me; the only thing that annoyed me with the writing was that the omniscient, unknown narrator of this story would occasionally refer to themselves in the first person (*I* this, *I* that). Who are they and why do I care what they think? This suddenly feels like the author popping in and reminding me that I'm just reading her story. I'm glad I read this; I didn't dislike it; I wasn't entertained but I did find it interesting. I would, and do want to read Woolf's two famous books "To the Lighthouse" and "Mrs. Dalloway", just to say I have, and now at least I know what to expect and am not so daunted in picking them up. ( )
  ElizaJane | Jun 6, 2013 |
Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf - I approached it with no trepidation at all, because I read Mrs. Dalloway a number of years ago and really enjoyed it, even with the page-long sentences. With that, and the fact that this is really a novella, I settled in for a quick read. How wrong I was on all counts. I had not thought about the fact that Woolf was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and envelope-pusher in literature until I got about 30 pages into this book and I really had no idea what was going on.

My impressions of this impressionistic book: There's Jacob, and he's a kid and he's up on a giant rock by the ocean. I think he's going to fall off. Oh, I guess not. Okay now we're at a dinner party and Jacob's in college. He hates dinner parties. In fact, as we find out from the seemingly endless dinner parties we'll have to attend with him, he's like the Holden Caulfield of the 1920s and really doesn't think much of society. Now he's on a boat with a friend and they're talking endlessly about the Greeks and is this friend in love with him or what? Now we're in Italy and Jacob's on his way to Greece and talking philosophy and he doesn't like French women and oh dear god how many more pages of this are left? Oh good, I'm done.

Then I went and read up a bit on the book to see if I missed something grand (it's been known to happen) and the answer is: well, if you like experimental literature and important milestones in postmodernism and books without a real protagonist or any plot to speak of, this book's for you. Otherwise, read Mrs. Dalloway. ( )
  ursula | Jan 1, 2013 |
Not my favourite book by the author, in fact compared to some of her other books, this one was a bit of a let down.

While it wasn't a bad book, it didn't grip me like some of her previous books. It was just as well written, Virginia Woolf's writing will always be lovely, but the story itself failed to grab my attention. Jacob as a character wasn't strong enough to keep it moving, nor was the plot as a whole strong enough to keep me interested - it felt like the entire story was at a constant stand still. There were a few interesting part, like his tour in Grease, the ending was surprising, but there was a lot of in-between stuff that lost my interest as a reader. Sometimes these big gaps of nothing, were filled by some lovely passages by the author, but there were big periods of time where I was bored with the book. Still, her writing still managed to capture me and keep me reading until the end.

Also found on my book review blog Jules' Book Reviews - Jacobs Room ( )
  bookwormjules | Dec 31, 2012 |
How have I missed this before? Could it have been something as trivial as not liking the previous copies I've started, which were scruffy hardbacks? I mean, I've read The years and The waves, for goodness sake!
Anyway this is superb. Woolf at her finest. Great descriptions of London and nature and scenery. Hinting at characters, capturing the sense of life as I experience it, puzzling me and then revealing more to satisfy and keep me alert. I want to re-read it at once - but of course I won't as there is too much else waiting to be read. But I will come back to this. The personal associations (connections with her brother Thoby), her femininism, her revelations of what life was like at that time are all fascinating. ( )
1 vote janetf8 | Mar 18, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Virginia Woolfprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fiedeldij Dop, JoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"So of course," wrote Betty Flanders, pressing her heels rather deeper in the sand, "there was nothing for it but to leave."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156457423, Paperback)

The story of a man’s life from a day in his childhood to the day of his death. “Jacob’s Room...comes as a tremendous surprise. The impossible has occurred. The style closely resembles that of Kew Gardens....The break with Night and Day and even with The Voyage Out is complete. A new type of fiction has swum into view” (E. M. Forster).

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:56 -0400)

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Jacob's Room is Virginia Woolf's first truly experimental novel. It is a portrait of a young man, who is both representative and victim of the social values which led Edwardian society into war. Jacob's life is traced from the time he is a small boy playing on the beach, through his years in Cambridge, then in artistic London, and finally making a trip to Greece, but this is no orthodox Bildungsroman. Jacob is presented in glimpses, in fragments, as Woolf breaks down traditional ways of representing character and experience. The novel's composition coincided with the consolidation of Woolf's interest in feminism, and she criticizes the privilege thoughtless smugness of patriarchy, "the other side," "the men in clubs and Cabinets." Her stylistic innovations are conscious attempts to realize and develop women's writing and the novel dramatizes her interest in the ways both language and social environments shape differently the lives of men and women.… (more)

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