Top positive review
“So strange is the contact of one with another.”
on 24 March 2016
I expect to re-read “The Waves” (1931), in part because its (Modernist) difficulty is likely to release new meanings, rather than confirm assumptions or provide reassurance, but also because as its six characters get older and, in their interspersed monologues, contemplate death so they seem to matter more and move beyond their very irritating youthful characters.
Even after one reading, though, I would say that while “The Waves” is acute on time, it relegates the social and historical insights that occur from time to time, and, to my surprise, at least, emerge much more unerringly in “Mrs Dalloway” (1925) and “To the Lighthouse” (1927). Possibly, this is because Virginia Woolf sticks, mostly, to the perspectives (and the narrowness of political outlook) of Bernard, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Jinny, and Louis; but, equally, it could be because of Woolf’s allegiance to the values of nature announced in the title and pursued doggedly, as well as through the unnamed third-person narrator who follows the rhythm of one day even as the six named characters go through to middle-age. This allegiance to nature or natural reality is quite deliberate on Woolf’s part and distinguishes “The Waves” from “To the Lighthouse”, which, in some respects, it resembles. Whereas in “To the Lighthouse”, for all its Modernist interest in consciousness, there is a concern with how people inter-relate in society, in “The Waves” “the contact of with one another” is “strange” for the characters. Almost in spite of her metaphysical interests, though, there are so many wonderful passages in “The Waves” when society – and particularly London society -- presses upon the more worldly of the six characters that there is an even greater novel shadowing the novel that Virginia Woolf has written.