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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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To describe Virginia Woolf's beguiling and intensely lyrical 'The Waves' as a novel, with all that the term novel usually implies, might be considered a little misleading - it is probably better described as a long prose poem or, perhaps, as a play for a chorus of six voices written in elliptical and richly poetical language. 'The Waves' has virtually no plot as such; Virginia Woolf commented herself that she was "writing to a rhythm, not a plot" and this book is full of rhythms and cadences where each sentence and paragraph flows and undulates in a manner comparable - as the author intended - to the waves of the ocean and the waves of the mind. The novel opens with a very atmospheric description of the sea at daybreak and introduces the reader to six young friends: Bernard, Neville, Louis, Susan, Rhoda and Jinny - who, when we first meet them, are children at pre-prep school; we then follow their lives as they move on to public school, where the boys meet Percival - whose "magnificence is that of some medieval commander" and with whom Neville falls in love. After school, Bernard and Neville go up to Cambridge; Louis goes into business; Susan is sent off to Switzerland to finish her education and to prepare her for a suitable marriage and Jinny returns to London. Percival sets off for India, where a tragedy occurs and one which has a significant and lasting impact on the six friends. As we read on, we learn - in fragments - how these six people live their lives separately, yet intertwined; how they go their own ways, but meet up as friends (and some of them as lovers) over the ensuing years; we read of how they experience the world around them; how they struggle to define who they are; how they attempt to cope with loss and how they ponder on what it means to be alive…

This novel, where the quality of the prose almost defies description, is the most original and lyrical of all of Virginia Woolf's novels and is a complex, yet tantalising story which requires the reader to immerse themselves fully in Woolf's sensuous language. Using a stream of consciousness narrative and the use of multiple inner monologues, the author reveals the vulnerabilities and complexities of her characters' personalities and, in doing so, she allows her readers to gain an impression of what it is like to be inside her characters' minds and to experience their inchoate thoughts and emotions. This novel is an extraordinary reading experience - I've read all of Virginia Woolf's books and there is nothing (in Woolf's body of work - or, that I have found, in anyone else's) that is quite like 'The Waves'. Having read this novel more than once over the years, this is perhaps where I should say that this unique and complex novel becomes clearer with each reading - but I'm not entirely sure that it does; it does, however, continue to impress, amaze and, in particular, to haunt me with each reading. A masterpiece.

5 Stars
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on 26 April 2017
Really interesting read. First time I have met Virginia Woolf but it makes me want to read more.
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on 14 July 2017
Very good.
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on 27 April 2017
Look foreward rto reading it
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on 19 April 2017
Perfect condition
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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 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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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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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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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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