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Jacob's room by Virginia Woolf

Jacob's room (original 1922; edition 1992)

by Virginia Woolf

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1,912285,746 (3.53)1 / 181
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 inCambridge, 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 privileged 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 writingand the novel dramatizes her interest in the ways both language and social environments shape differently the lives of men and women.… (more)
Title:Jacob's room
Authors:Virginia Woolf
Info:London ; New York : Penguin Books, 1992.
Collections:Your library

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Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf (1922)



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English (26)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Virginia Woolf is definitely not my favourite author. This again was a book that was not easy to digest. Not that all books I read need to be easy digestable, but she has a manner of writing that I can't get used to.

It was much better (for me than Orland or The Waves, but I didn't like it as much as The Years or Night and Day. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Aug 13, 2019 |
I read this one in college, but that was over 20 years ago so I didn't retain much beyond a generally positive feeling. Reading it now in the context of my very serious Virginia Woolf bookclub (reading everything she published in chronological order) really highlights how Woolf expands into herself with this novel. It has some of the Britishness and relationship stuff of Night and Day, the experimentation of Kew Gardens, the travelogue nature of the Voyage Out, and the playfulness with authorial perspective that weaves in and out of Monday or Tuesday. Jacob is an unknowable cipher, even though we stick with him till the end. But, in trying to know him, we end up knowing a lot about everything else. Which is kind of the way life works. Which is why I love Virginia Woolf. ( )
1 vote kristykay22 | Jan 8, 2019 |
I initially thought this was a bit cold, devoid of emotion, keeping me at a distance-and as an experiment in narrative form, of course it holds the reader at a distance, but I was wrong about it being cold. This is a small marvel, and it’s not even considered one of her better books. It is like an anti-Bildungsroman, impressionistic, with brief sketches of a character-one Jacob Flanders-whose name is his destiny. So much here is like life: how one can never know a person, only estimate or guess at another’s character; how in the midst of trying to form impressions of one’s own, of taking in life and enjoying the view of Scilly Isles, one realises that one’s copy of Shakespeare has fallen into the ocean. Or as Fanny Elmer notes, “One’s godmother ought to have told one”. Told one what? “Told one that it is no use making a fuss; this is life, they should have said”.

There is something here about grief and memory and the war, the countless number of men who died and who live on in the collective memory as numbers. How the act of remembering sometimes feels like a betrayal, because it begins to reveal to you something about the nature of death similar to what Woolf wrote in her diary as she was writing this novel: in death, like “a new form for a new novel”, the bare structure of the person becomes ever more hazy and indistinct, "no scaffolding; scarcely a brick to be seen”, and all you have left are memory as scraps, snatched from here and there, like something they said to you one day as you did the dishes after dinner. The whole person, their form, eludes you.

But it’s also a sly parody of the Bildungsroman and the conventions of realist fiction. Everyone is made fun of in small ways; Jacob and the society that produces countless Jacobs are not let off without subtle commentary. The distance the narrative technique employs is ironic; Woolf’s tone is one of mocking regard of patriarchal institutions and of Jacob himself, who thinks women, like dogs, shouldn’t be allowed into church services in Cambridge. In a way, Woolf skewers the men of her class. A satire that’s an elegy at the same time, about a society that valorises its Jacobs and is prepared to sacrifice them for abstract ideals that benefit a few.

Woolf’s prose is always like air being let into a stuffy room: you sit up straighter and begin to pay more attention to everything around you. If anything, maybe the style here is more fragmented, and less symphonic like in To the Lighthouse. Still, it tells you something about her ability with language that this is considered one of her minor works; most writers would be happy to call it a day if they could produce one novel like this one. The essayistic asides/fragments are, to me, worth the price of admission: “Don’t palter with the second rate. Detest your own age. Build a better one.” ( )
1 vote subabat | Mar 19, 2018 |
I suspect that I chose the wrong Virginia Woolf book for my first read. Jacob’s Room was beautifully written, full of descriptive passages, original in both outlook and style but for most of the book I had not clue as to what was happening. The author after giving us glimpses and hints, leaves it up to her reader to put the pieces together. The words “stream of consciousness” come to mind and I admit I was put off by the disjointedness and lack of plot.

Jacob’s Room appears to be the life story of a young man and it unfolds in a series of scenes from his childhood, his time at Cambridge, his love affairs, his travels and on to his apparent death in World War I. The author’s intention in showing fragments of his life and leaving the whole picture elusive and incomplete is perhaps her way of making Jacob a symbol for an entire generation.

This was a poetic, layered, confusing and intriguing read. For much of the book I felt the author was immersed in her own nostalgia and sadness, but I was never totally drawn in and didn’t feel any sense of connection to the story. I fully intend to read more of Virginia Woolf’s writing and perhaps I can learn to appreciate an author who makes her readers work to understand the whys and wherefores of her writing. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Sep 11, 2017 |
A passi ispirati si alternano passi non riusciti o, comunque, fastidiosi e spiazzanti, a volte anche fuori luogo, direi. Virgina però il Dono ce l'aveva, sono le epifanie del suo talento quelle che rimangono una volta chiuso e deposto il libro.

Dicono, in molti, che questo non sia affatto il migliore romanzo di Virginia Woolf... Questo è il secondo suo che leggo e mi sta piacendo un sacco (come il primo, To the Lighthouse): devo dedurre allora che questa donna, nel/i suo/i capolavoro/i sa estasiare il lettore! ( )
  downisthenewup | Aug 17, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Woolf, Virginiaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Banti, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fiedeldij Dop, JoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roe, SueEditorsecondary 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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