the voyage out

Title :: The Voyage Out
Author :: Virginia Woolf
Completed :: Apr 06 2008
Challenges :: Decades : 1001 Books
Rating :: 3/5

The works of Woolf have so far been hit and miss with me, I enjoyed Mrs. Dalloway but couldn't really get into To The Lighthouse. This novel however, her first, was fun in the beginning especially when the Dalloways make an entrance and stir things up upon the ship of Edwardians heading for South America. But once the Dalloways stepped off the boat before the final destination my interest started to slip. The novel became this void, something was missing, the dialogue was dry and sometimes confusing. There was this monotony of everyday life for the Edwardians staying at the hotel. And there was this complex 'thing' going on between Rachel Vinrace and Terence Hewet. I feel like Woolf was trying to convey something profound and that I just wasn't getting it. So upon finishing I felt relieved but was feeling less than intelligent.

E.M. Forster praised The Voyage Out calling it "a book which attains unity as surely as Wuthering Heights, though by a different path." I'd say quite a different path since I loved Wuthering Heights and felt that the themes were rather clear in that book. Rachel Vinrace came across to me as a person with a deep unhappiness, completely unsure of herself and unwilling to accept that joy and love were things that she could attain. Here Rachel is staring at herself in the looking glass:
In the glass she wore an expression of tense melancholy, for she had come to the depressing conclusion, since the arrival of the Dalloways, that her face was not the face she wanted, and in all probability never would be.
This is exactly the kind of attitude that she persists in carrying throughout the novel, she made me feel miserable. What is it that Woolf is trying to portray in this character? Rachel feels an attraction towards Terence and she engages herself to him but then is very wishy-washy about her feelings. Does she actually love him? Does she even understand what love is? I just couldn't seem to find a clear answer in the narrative.

The only thing I can think of is that Rachel was anxious and jumped into a situation that she felt was normal and expected of her. Surely she knew something of love, having been raised by her aunts while her father was out to sea. Her reading however doesn't seem to involve much about love, especially since she is not fan of Austen and has never read her work. Mrs. Dalloway gives her a copy of Persuasion but she ignores it. There's also the weird incident on the ship where Rachel seems to be attracted to Mr. Dalloway or at least his knowledge of the world. Mr. Dalloway picks up on this and following Rachel to her quarters takes her by surprise by kissing her full on the mouth. It is clear that Rachel enjoyed the kiss and I'm made to wonder if she was trying to find that joy again in Terence and became frustrated because it wasn't quite the same.

Well in any case I must give the novel bonus points because in one scene Mrs. Flushing is telling Rachel about the men that used to visit Chillingley, "very clever men interested in Egyptology". Ha! And Hirst's little outburst upon their tour of a South American village, "what an ass I was not to bring my Kodak!" reminded me of all the times I've regretted not having my camera.

Other Thoughts ::
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. listening . fall line . jack johnson . on and on .


posted by Ashleigh @ 15:16,


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    ashleigh (ash'lė) n.
    1: egyptologist; currently living in the uk attempting to obtain a phd in egyptology, hoping in the end there will be a job.
    2: literary; reading to escape reality, to improve conversation, for inspiration.
    3: crafter; crocheting and needlework, creating heirlooms, keeping the world warm.
    4: dreamer; head in the clouds, full of fantasies, wishing to be someone else, somewhere else.
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