The Voyage Out


Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out [London; 1915]

Woolf's first novel is, embarrassingly, the first Woolf I've read; and is, from what I've gathered, the closest of her novels to "normal" psychological fiction of the era, without much notable formal experimentation. The closely-observed, panoramic Anglos-overseas novels of Henry James and E. M. Forster loom large over The Voyage Out, but Woolf drills deeper still into the interior worlds of her characters, particularly (naturally) into womens' interiority, with an assuredness and a linguistic precision that is enviable even here on the other side of modernism.

If the novel ends up being more impressive sentence by sentence -- there are images, similes, expertly-captured moments, and uncannily resonant insights that will stay with me for a long time -- than as a shapely whole, that's not unusual for a first novel, particularly one it took a decade to write and rewrite (and, apparently, expurgate of more overt nods to lesbianism and anticolonialism). Although I bet a second reading would make the whole a lot more shapely, now that I know the broad structure; but that will have to wait.

I was delighted to see the namesake of a much more famous later novel turn up in the first few chapters; and Mrs Dalloway is at the top of the Woolf I want to read next.

August 29, 2017