Friday, April 8, 2011

The Waves by Virginia Woolf - A "For the Classics" Guest Review

Let's give a welcome to the lovely Laura from A Work of Fiction - the first to write a review "For the Classics"!


My name is Laura and I write a blog over at A Work of Fiction. I’m an aspiring writer in the process of finishing and publishing my first novel in the Young-Adult genre. I can be found most days with a book or camera in hand, having one-sided conversations with my dogs or watching re-runs of The Nanny. Oh, and I also make a really mean dish of scrambled eggs.

To read more about me and my story, click here!

Find me at these places:
A Work of Fiction - my blog

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

A review by Laura Newcombe


Set on the coast of England against the vivid background of the sea, The Waves introduces six characters--three men and three women--who are grappling with the death of a beloved friend, Percival. Instead of describing their outward expressions of grief, Virginia Woolf draws her characters from the inside, revealing them through their thoughts and interior soliloquies. As their understanding of nature's trials grows, the chorus of narrative voices blends together in miraculous harmony, remarking not only on the inevitable death of individuals but on the eternal connection between everyone. The novel that most epitomizes Virginia Woolf's theories of fiction in working form, The Waves is an amazing book very much ahead of its time. It is poetic dreamscape, visual, experimental, and thrilling.


How do you summarise the sheer beauty and power of Virginia Woolf’s ingenious voice? I don’t know, but I’ll try.
This was my first time reading Virginia Woolf, although I’d already developed a great deal of respect and adoration for her after reading her biography a few years ago. Since then I’ve been longing to read one of her works.

Well, it was only a few weeks ago that I was roaming my local library, searching for a new book to devour, when my eye was caught by a book sticking out on the bottom row of a shelf. I picked it up and my heart almost leapt out of my throat: “The Waves by Virginia Woolf” it read and I wanted to scream with excitement.

I suppose it’s needless to say I checked it out immediately and scurried home to read it.

Was I able to put it down since? The answer is yes and no.

At first, The Waves is a very difficult piece to comprehend. The story is told through the alternating dramatic monologue of the six main characters – Louis, Susan, Bernard, Jinny, Neville and Rhoda – which can become quite confusing as the only way Woolf declares these changes are by writing; “said Rhoda” or “said Neville”. There is no real transition and it took me – a modern reader – a while before I discovered these were thoughts, not conversations. For example:

“I see a ring,” said Bernard, “hanging above me. It quivers and hangs in a loop of light.”

“I see a slab of pale yellow,” said Susan, “spreading away until it meets a purple stripe.”

“I hear a sound,” said Rhoda, “cheep, chirp; cheep chirp; going up and down.”

“I see a globe,” said Neville, “hanging down in a drop against the enormous flanks of some hill.”

“I see a crimson tassel,” said Jinny, “twisted with gold threads.”

“I hear something stamping,” said Louis. “A great beast’s foot is chained. It stamps, and stamps, and stamps.”
I needed to allow myself more time to read this book, or really I needed to allow myself the time to understand each paragraph. That is the greatest piece of advice I can give you if you do decide to read The Waves – read it, don’t look, read.

I have found that most people who have read this book, read it again at least twice. I, who will do the same, recommend others to as well.

Another reason why I was not instantaneously absorbed is because there is no real plot, which I grew accustomed and surprisingly welcome to as I began to really acknowledge – well around pg. 100 or so – Woolf’s poetry. By now it was too late, there was no escape, because she had grabbed me by the hand and dragged me into her glorious mind.

The late nights had begun, the “just one more page,” as I glanced at the alarm clock announcing midnight. I stayed with her and she stayed with me, her voice comforting, incessant. Here are some of my favorite experts that will help confirm her undeniable talent:

"For this moment, this one moment, we are together. I press you to me. Come, pain, feed on me. Bury your fangs in my flesh. Tear me asunder. I sob, I sob."
“Yet there are moments when the walls of the mind grow thin; when nothing is unabsorbed, and I could fancy that we might blow so vast a bubble that the sun might set and rise in it and we might take the blue of midday and the black of midnight and be cast off and escape from here and now.”
“On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.”

This is human suffering, the burden of life, our weakness and fears, the monster of insecurity – no one depicts this better than Virginia Woolf herself.

I can see myself rereading this book every single year; during the day out on the porch, her phrases encasing me, or by night underneath the warm covers of my bed, her poetry familiar bittersweet lullabies.

The Waves kindled an innumerable amount of emotions in me. It made me feel, see, yearn and cry. I was breathless, I was clinging and I will never forget that feeling as I will revisit that feeling.
Read, remember, and embrace. She will grasp you with every word, and never let you go until THE END.

Fun facts: You never hear the voice of Percival – the deceased friend – although he contributes to the book greatly.
The Waves is recognized as Mrs. Woolf’s most experimental work.

About the author:

(Adeline) Virginia Woolf was an English novelist and essayist regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century.

During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One's Own (1929) with its famous dictum, "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
She committed suicide by filling her pockets with rocks and drowning in the Ouse River.

Thank you so much, Laura, for being the first to join and for contributing this wonderful review! :)

If you would like to participate in a "For the Classics" Guest post, head on over to this page!!!!!


  1. Oh Sierra, thank you so much! You're amazing :D.
    To see this as a post is!
    For the Classics was so much fun, everyone must sign up - now! (:

  2. It looks pretty darn amazing, Laura! You did an incredible job!!! :) Thanks so much for participating!

  3. What a nice review! I first read 'The Waves' close to fifty years ago, when I was in high school, and it is one of my favorite books. I've read it three or four times, but not in years. I can see that it is time to pick it up again. Thanks for the reminder.