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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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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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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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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 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 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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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.
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