The Waves (Harcourt, 2006)
by Virginia Woolf
While one or two of the Woolf fanatics in my blogging inner circle will hopefully be chuffed to learn that Virginia and I are back on speaking terms once again after the disastrous blind date that was Orlando, I'm afraid that they may well be unchuffed/not chuffed/dischuffed/less than chuffed (blimey, somebody help me out with this British English already!) to hear that The Waves didn't exactly do it for me either. Not that I thought it completely sucked or anything. On the plus side, I admired Woolf's willingness to experiment with narrative structure--the central conceit here being a novel that unfolds without dialogue in a series of soliloquies by six characters speaking in turn. I also enjoyed her ability to handle a variety of traditional downer themes--death, loss, our looming mortality--in a way that felt fresh and true to the spirit of the distinct characters involved (both those with speaking roles and those like Percival who only come alive through the refracted memories of the others). It should go without saying that there were any number of quotable passages and truly poetic images bobbing among the 220 pages of text. On the minus side, though, I found The Waves to be much more ambitious than exhilarating in terms of the reading experience delivered. The writing's incredibly mannered and artificial, and reading it often reminded me of when I had to sit through church as a little kid when I would have rather been watching football or playing outside or doing almost anything else instead. It didn't help that the italicized interludes that help frame the soliloquy segments were so dull, but they were. I suspect that I would have been at least somewhat more receptive to The Waves' cerebral charms if I had read it with more time in between it and the atrocious Orlando, but I'm certain that all that overly "stagey," Greek chorus-like heavyhanded theatricality of the prose would have bothered me at any point in time regardless. Meh. (http://www.harcourtbooks.com/)
Thanks to Woolfies Sarah, Frances, Emily, and today's discussion host Claire for throwing the Woolf in Winter party and to those of you who visited here during the different pub crawls (below) along the way.