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The Years [Paperback]

Virginia Woolf
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Jun 1977
As the Pargiters, a middle-class English family, move from the oppressive confines of the Victorian home of the 1880s to the 'present day' of the 1930s, this novel engages with a painful struggle between utopian hopefulness and crippled despair. The efforts of its characters - Eleanor and Kitty, Martin and Sara, Peggy and North - to break free from repression, egotism, and convention are made with awkward difficulty. They are weighed down by the pressures of war, the social structures of patriarchy, capitalism and Empire, and the rise of Fascism. Through the muffled, fragmented textures of the narrative a savage indictment of Virginia Woolf's society begins to be heard. But its bitter sadness is relieved by the longing for some better way of life, where freedom and justice' might really be possible. This is Virginia Woolf's longest novel, written with the greatest difficulty she ever experienced, and yet the most popular of all her writings during her lifetime. With the feminist essay that grew out of it, Three Guineas, it can now be re-read as the most challengingly political, even revolutionary, of all her books. "The Years" is one of ten World's Classics by Virginia Woolf, and comes with an introducton and notes to provide guidance for readers new to this author.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grafton; New Ed edition (9 Jun 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0586044531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0586044537
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,678,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'An astonishing editorial achievement.' The Times Literary Supplement --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

A portrait of a family coping with changes wrought by the new twentieth century - the most popular of Woolf's books during her lifetime. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Years by Virginia Woolf 19 Nov 2010
The novel is about the Pargiter family, and it covers the passage of time from the 1880's until the "present-day" which is in the 1930's. However, it is not a continuous account; so do not expect a long drawn out family story, tracking the characters from start to finish. Instead there are 11 chapters each titled by the year it is set in. Therefore, there are gaps in between the years, as not each year is documented.
Furthermore, each chapter is quite specific, dealing with a day of that particular year, and describing events occuring for a few of the characters. The events tend to be "every-day" occurences.

If you are looking for an easy read, then maybe move on to something else, as you do need to recall the various character names and how they are related.

HOWEVER, in my opinion this is one of the easier Virginia Woolf novels I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it very very highly. I particularly liked the way each chapter started of with a brief description of the weather at that time, so you get a seasonal pattern almost, with variation in weather between chapters.

This book deals with the passage of time, and the way that experiences are unique for the individual; so even if two people are looking at the same thing, they will be seeing it in a different way and if asked to describe it, will give different accounts. To make things more difficult, imagine trying to give a description of someone else, how difficult it is to encompass their whole character, their experiences, what makes them a person; the book gave me a lot to think about and it really was mind-blowing in a subtle way (!)

I hope you decide to go ahead and read it, especially if you are a Woolf fan!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but went on for too long 13 July 2008
I was prepared not to enjoy this, as I had read a certain amount of negative criticism. However, I really enjoyed the first three-quarters of this sprawling family saga, a saga which addresses directly both political and social issues in Britain and Europe, from the late C19th to the years immediately before the Second World War. It isn't quite in the same league as 'Mrs Dalloway', but it still has that Virginia Woolf way of pulling you in by such precise and well-observed description of character and place .

But at some point near the end, I found I was getting a bit bored. I wasn't interested any more. Eleanor's internal maunderings were slightly tedious; I was forgetting who was related to who; and I had to make an effort to finish the book.

For me, it was a sprawl too many. But it's still worth a read - it's Woolf, after all.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is too much famous. 14 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a complicated book, it was very hard to read and harder to understand. I usually don't like Virginia Woolf because she's so complicated but this is a masterpiece.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An under-appreciated gem from Woolf 8 Oct 2000
By Joy Kim - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
_The Years_ is the story of three generations of the Pargiter family. Stretching from 1880 to the 1920s, it follows the Pargiters through the tumultuous historical events and social changes of that era. Abel Pargiter is a retired civil servant; his daughter Eleanor is interested in social work; his son Edward becomes an academic; his grandson North is a veteran of the Great War. Their interactions and reflections comment upon their experiences in their always changing world.
In my opinion, _The Years_ ranks with as one of Woolf's greatest novels. It shows that Woolf was more than a feminist and more than a stylist--she was also a perceptive critic and observer of her society. She shows the plight of "the daughter of educated men" in a world that denies them education and careers; she shows the effect of the Great War on its survivors. And all the while, she writes her typical lyrical prose she writes about the passage of time: "Slowly wheeling, like the rays of a searchlight, the days, the weeks, the years passed one after another across the sky."
It is interesting to note that Woolf originally planned to write _The Years_ (with _Three Guineas) as a novel-essay called _The Pargiters_. The writing of this novel was extremely difficult, and it is much longer than most of her novels. In some ways it is much less experimental in form than _The Waves_, yet Woolf herself worried that the monologues of _The Waves_ left too much of the external world out--_The Years_ is, in part, an answer to that sentiment.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading Woolf or modern fiction. It probably isn't the best starter novel for Woolf (_Mrs Dalloway_ or _To the Lighthouse_ are better introductions to her style), but it's a beautiful piece of work. _Three Guineas_, Woolf's feminist pamphlet about "how to prevent war", is also worth reading after _The Years_. They complement each other very well, which is not surprising in light of their common origins.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Masterpiece for all Time. 8 Aug 2001
By Southern Bard - Published on
If an immortal were to ask me what is is like to be mortal, and live with a family and with time and with age, I would hand him this book, and feel confident that he would get a grasp of our experience. Mrs. Woolf has gathered the dimension of time in this novel through simple passages of conversation that left my heart sinking and rising. What an achievement!

I read this after reading Jacob's Room, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, A Room of One's Own, and The Waves. In this novel she was trying to cut her style back, making it more concise, and moving away from experimentation. Yet, she produced a most unique novel.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 27 Aug 2003
By Gypsi Phillips Bates - Published on
This is one of Woolf's best, if not THE best. It follows a family through decades, showing the changes in them and the changes in the world around them. That stream-of-consciousness style that she is so famous for runs smoothly in The Years, and just flows over the reader. It was hard for me to tear myself away from this book. . . I had to simply shut the book, often in mid-sentance, to make myself stop reading. This comes highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Review of Kindle edition, not of the book. 4 April 2013
By Kent Swearingen - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If they are going to charge ten bucks for an e-book, they could at least have it proof-read. They obviously didn't - just scanned some print edition and published the result without even looking at it. The software saw the word "the" as "die" about half the time, for instance, so that's what appears in the kindle edition. Too often kindle books are riddled with typos like this. They should either do some quality control, or lower the price.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars it took years to read - just kidding! 19 Jan 2005
By A. G. Plumb - Published on
I refer to the Penguin edition of this book with an introduction and notes by Jeri Johnson.

This is not my favourite Virginia Woolf novel. It is too shapeless for me - perhaps that's what Virginia Woolf was trying to demonstrate - that life is shapeless in its continuation from generation to generation. But to show any meaningful drift to sameness and change I believe we need a much greater perspective than we get from the Pargiters. And when there isn't much direction, much sense of approaching a climax, then, for me anyway, all Virginia Woolf's fine detail and acute observation becomes a tedious reiteration of the ennui of life which I prefer to avoid in literature rather than be reminded of over and over again.

The notes to this novel are quite comprehensive but I was uncommonly annoyed at one point. There is a novel by Philip Dick that I remember reading in which the author explains the correct pronunciation of the main character's name half-way through the novel. Murphy's Law almost guaranteed that I had selected the incorrect pronunciation and had to resound the character's name from that point on. This was a bit annoying. But not half as annoying as when Virginia Woolf tells us that the character North - again half way through the novel - was having his name pronounced incorrectly as if it were a point of the compass. This, of course, is exactly how I pronounced it in my mind. But what other way is there? Neither Virgina Woolf nor Jeri Johnson tell me. I am still mystified.

And perhaps this is the nub of my disenchantment with this novel. Perceptive as the writing might be, I feel an alien in this company, out of my depth amongst a batch of people who know the proper way to pronounce North.
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