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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on 1 August 2000
In my view this is Woolf's best book. It is less of a novel as one usually expects - more a 300-page poem in prose form. The key to reading the book is to simply let the words flow over you - don't try to decipher the literal meaning of every sentence, just enjoy the sensations that their shape and texture give you. Ostensibly about the lives of five friends from birth to death, the book can actually be interpreted as an attempt by Woolf to delve deep into various facets of her own psyche, and a sharp reader will doubtless notice many of their own deepest psychological experiences in there.
A word of warning - don't try it if you've never read Woolf before. This is Woolf at her most abstract and esoteric. Try Mrs. Dalloway or Orlando first to get used to her style, then perhaps To The Lighthouse, before you try this. But for those who read the book with the right approach, the rewards are enormous, and indeed potentially life-changing.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 1999
This novel must invent its own narrative form to speak, and does; Woolf perfects her own poetics through the voices of six characters as we follow them from infancy to death, all in the course of a day. But the novel is not merely a formal or stylistic exercise in describing the world: it is one of the twentieth century's most moving accounts of the mostly unspoken, largely unspeakable shock at there being a world at all.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2004
Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?
She was an author I had put off reading for some time now, for reasons I'm not sure I fully understand, but having finally got around to reading her once, I'm looking forward to a second chance.
For the first time in a long time, I have found myself shocked by a book. By the style as well as the substance. I remember an old friend describing the first time he heard 'Sunshine of your love' by Cream in the sixties and how he thought 'I didn't know you could do that, make that sound with a guitar'. Reading this book shocked me out of the complacency of what a novel could be or achieve.
In a stream of consciousness narrative, echoing the tide's waxing and waning over a single day, the novel follows the life of six friends from childhood to old age. It's a novel of feeling and sound, emotive more than cognitive. Poignant, halcyonic, melancholic - like it's author. A wonderful poetic gift that needs to be felt. A book to return to again and again.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 6 November 2002
This is the first virginia woolf book that I have had the fortune to read, and I must comment that I was blown away by it's fantastically original style. It reads to me as a beautiful at times haunting long poem, that never ceases to enage the reader. The story is based around 7 individuals and documents their lives from children to adults. The book can be a little confusing at times due to the nature of it's content, but the sheer beauty of the words carries it through it's weaker moments. So lovely I might even read it again.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2009
Possibly one of the best books I've ever read. This is writing at its most skilled, incorporating excellent ideas about life, death and being. I found that rather than reading the book and deliberating over every word, I let the book read me. This is a very enlightening read, when read like this. Unusually, I also found this an easier read than `To the Lighthouse'.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2009
The Waves follows the lives of six friends from childhood to adulthood. There is no dialogue, but we follow the innermost thought of each of the characters. This provides a unique experience, different from that of any other books I've read: it can be (barely) summed up as a collection of intertwined monologues. As such, it's somewhat closer to a theatre play than a novel. I suggest it to read it out loud: only then, Woolf's delicate and precise choice of words (and sounds) can be fully appreciated.

As any other novel by Virginia Woolf, this book can be daunting, and the lack of explicit dialogue can make it fell more so. However, it's an enriching emotional experience.
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on 16 June 2015
It is hard to describe this book. It is poetry as prose. It follows five people from childhood through to adulthood, running in the same style as waves as they are lapping against a beach, as the tide comes in and goes out.

You need to concentrate at the beginning to find how the language and words pull you in, but you are subtley included and drawn in the the text and the "mysticism" it encapsulates. It is the first book by Virginia Woolf that I have read and it wont be the last.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2009
The Waves is a stream of consciousness describing thoughts of a group of schoolmates throughout their lives. The molonologues start as they go to school together and alternate from one friend to another. There's also a non-talking character who is very important to the others but we never know what he's thinking.

The prologues at the beginning of each chapter mark the different stages in the freinds' live: from sunraise to sunset. The waves motive represents the different thoughts and feelings that go up and down and the live experiences that are also up and down the shore, just like the waves.

The book is generally very difficult to read: follow Woolf's thoughts was sometimes impossible for me. But don't give up, after a lot of emotional talking, there always is a factual information which aligns the plot. Her language is fabulous, although the meaning at times obscure.
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on 8 April 2015
Not for the faint hearted reader! The style of writing and the the format of the book are something quite different. Here you will find in analysis of the psyche which scratches beneath the surface to reveal the subjects as they are, rather than as they would wish to appear. The chronological approach emphasizes changes - one is constantly asking what is genetic, what is learned? As an in depth writing the book is interesting - there are brilliant passages, some a little abstract.
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on 3 October 2014
This was tricky to read, but definitely worth finishing. It is written in a stream of consciousness style which can be disconcerting. However, it is worth persevering with as there are a number of interesting comments on life within. Although it is certainly not easy to read, it is one that you will be pleased you have completed.
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