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3.7 out of 5 stars
Jacob's Room
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2002
A typically wonderful read from the great Virginia Woolf. While Jacob is on the one hand the centre of this book, he is also the enigma which the reader never quite finds. We hear many others talking of Jacob, but we catch only fleeting glimpses of Jacob himself, making this book a strange, at times disorientating read. This however, is clearly Woolf's intention, as she plays with notions of character, authorial omniscience, and coherent plotting. A great example of classic modernist fiction from one of Britain's most celebrated authors. If you are prepared for a challenging read, then buy this book- but prepare for your expectations of what constitutes a novel to be put under the spotlight.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2014
This is an excellent novel and leaves you gasping with admiration at Ms Woolf's wonderful prose. However, compared to her best work - Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, The Waves - it reads more like an experiment in prose. If you haven't yet read any Virginia Woolf, start with To the Lighthouse or Mrs Dalloway. Don't expect racy page turners but just wonderful language that reads like exquisite music. In my opinion, though, I think her diaries are her best work and well worth seeking out.
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This excerpt from a letter sent by Woolf explaining something of her raison d'etre for writing Jacob's Room gives some context for the exceptionally fragmented and sometimes incoherent effect of her writing:
"The human soul, it seems to me, orientates itself afresh every now and then. It is doing so now. No one can see it whole, therefore. The best of us catch a glimpse of a nose, a shoulder, something turning away, always in movement. Still, it seems better to me to catch this glimpse, than to sit down with Hugh Walpole, Wells, etc. etc. and make large oil paintings of fabulous fleshy monsters complete from top to toe."

Thereby coming to one of the first examples of Virginia Woolf's oevre we see the something of the point of what she was about as a writer. Rejecting the "fabulous fleshy monsters" was part of an attempt to record a more realistic vision of consciousness, with all of its uncertainties, its fragmentation, even, it seems to the point of inconsequentiality. But who could say it was not a wholehearted attempt to get closer than usual to human experience. Yes it rejects the, to her, banal conventionalities of the novel - a breathtaking rejection that elects to do without the tyrannies of plot, of characterisation, even of story. It keeps theme only in the sense of its circle of attention upon one person, eventually, after the childhood sequence, upon Jacob. But Jacob only as he might be glimpsed, seen at a dinner party, out with his art-school girlfriend Florinda, the bedroom door opened, then closed on us. Woolf is a prude, perhaps understandably, due to the conventions of the time as well as her own experience of sexual abuse at the age of 13.

It is an extraordinary leap of faith for any writer to take and though it doesn't catch Woolf at the height of her powers (my own favourite is 'Mrs Dalloway' or possibly 'To The Lighthouse'), it is a step along the Modernist road she was determined that her writing must travel.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 2 October 2011
I'm in a Woolf phase right now and came to this book after reading her later works: 'Mrs Dalloway', 'To the Lighthouse', 'Orlando' as well her non-fiction piece 'A Room of One's Own'. Although lacking the brilliance of these later works, 'Jacob's Room' is well worth a read if only to see Woolf starting out on the process of trying to dismantle the idea that novel = linear narrative, fully rounded characterisation, and an omniscient author.

I think 'Jacob's Room' is a very 'impressionistic' novel in that we get no concrete sense of who the main character, Jacob Flanders, is. As another reviewer has said, we only catch glimpses of him. There is no god-like omniscient author forever telling you what the character thinks or feels. (To me this reflects the increasingly godless modern world we live in.) Also, the dialogue in the novel is often disjointed and I think this reflects the atomised modern world we live in. I assume that by writing dialogue which lacks linearity and fluidity Woolf more truthfully reflects human to human interaction: it's often full of non-sequitors, fails to flow easily, is interrupted etc.

If you're prepared for a challenging read and want to see how Woolf got started on the process of challenging the then accepted norms of fiction wfiting - then buy this book.
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on 20 January 2013
I absolutely love this novel, it's magical. Unfortunately the kindle edition being sold here is missing inset quotes/songs/poems from the characters so sometimes you might get

"""
"Ah," sighed Clara, who stood beside Jacob, half-way through.

sang Elsbeth Siddons.
"""
(Chapter 7, Loc 1037)

without ever discovering what she sang. It's a little sad, but not unforgivable (especially considering it's a free edition). I would use it to discover whether you like it and then investigate to see if any of the paid-for-but-cheap editions for Kindle are actually complete.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2014
Woolf at her best. Engaging and a mystery. The characters become endearing yet untouchable in a true exploration of self.
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on 13 November 2014
Reading this novel feels like strolling past a series of Impressionist canvasses, some are more sketchy and vague than others, are returned to from time to time, a small detail added here and there. Musings, reveries and questions without answers, neither plot nor story line invite the reader to fill in the unfinished sketches. A relaxing read, enjoyable because of the beautiful language.
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on 28 October 2012
I am a newcomer to Woolfs writing. This book was enjoyable although you never get to know too much about Jacob. I am hoping to read 'to the lighthouse' next.
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on 28 February 2015
I loved this and the ending actually took my breath away. I love the style and following the life of Jacob to the end. A must read Woolf!
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on 14 March 2013
Subtle and delicate. A beautiful investigation of desire, memory, character and place. Modern in the best sense of the word.
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