Tag Archives: Review

“The Voyage Out” [A Review]

Virginia Woolf Smiling? Surely not…

Miss Virginia Woolf (Image by spratmackrel via Flickr)

If there’s one thing I love it’s a bitter cup of hot Earl Grey tea. And also Virginia Woolf.

My love for Virginia Woolf has grown to the point where I can honestly say that even my least favorite work of hers that I’ve read (Jacob’s Room, in case you were wondering) is on my top 100 Books Ever List. I’ll be the first to admit that this love runs the risk of making me a terrible reviewer of anything Miss Woolf wrote. I will try, however, to give a level-headed and concise reflection on this novel.

First, let me just say: GAAAAHHHH!!!! THIS BOOK IS SO FUCKING AMAZING!!!!! I WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO IT AND MARRY IT AND GO TO A NURSING HOME WITH IT AND BE THERE FOR IT AS IT DIES AND THEN KILL MYSELF BECAUSE I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT!!!!!

Now that that’s out of the way, let me say this:

The novel begins with Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose, a nice couple who set sail with a small collection of family and friends from London, but the cast of characters quickly opens up as their boat arrives in a resort town in South America. The closest that this novel comes to having a main character is Rachel, the niece of Mrs. Ambrose. A young woman who has been brought up in the strict society life of her widower father she follows her aunt and uncle to South America. Her journey introduces her to new worlds, particularly the more liberal world of her aunt. This of course runs the risk of being the physical journey that is a perfect symbol for the character’s emotional, a trope that is often quite stale, but Miss Woolf’s deft use of language and her insight into various types of personalities makes this feel fresh and sprightly. Far from feeling like yet another self-discovery story The Voyage Out feels electric, a characteristic that I find common in Miss Woolf’s writing.

I had several highlights in this book. One of which was the use of Mr. and Mrs. Dalloway. I had fallen in love with this couple in Mrs. Dalloway and it was a treat to see them again, particularly to see them through Rachel’s biting eyes. The Voyage Out introduced me to another couple to fall in love with. Mr. Hirst and Mr. Hewet are young, intellectual male friends staying with each other in the hotel near the house rented by the Ambroses. As a person who likes to project LGBTQ* diversity into every nook and cranny of his life Mr. Hirst and Mr. Hewet are nearly as great a treat as Holmes and Watson are. While Mr. Hewet does indicate his heterosexuality throughout the book (or, as I like to think of it, his bi- or pansexuality) Mr. Hirst definitely read as homosexual to me (or possibly asexual…) I also took delight in trying to decide how much of herself Miss Woolf put into the character of Mrs. Ambrose (the book’s Wikipedia article does say that Mrs. Ambrose is more likely based on Miss Woolf’s sister but I can’t let that ruin my fun).

In The Voyage Out we are given a unique and engaging coming of age story that has Miss Woolf’s characteristic style while still being accessible to new Woolf readers. It also gives us this wonderful quote from Mrs. Dalloway (Chapter 4):

How much rather one would be a murderer than a bore!

5/5 stars.

The Voyage Out. Virginia Woolf. 1915.

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I Use Online Cartoons To Support My Opinions

Cover of "Barnyard - The Original Party A...

I'm not going to recommend this (Though I might not have seen it.) --Cover via Amazon

All through my life I’ve had one set mindset regarding reviews: Stupid. And then I started reading them. These past few years I’ve been hearing myself say things like: “Well, The New Yorker really hated that. ” (In fairness they hate most things that actually gross over two dollars in the opening weekend.) OR “I want to pick up this book I saw reviewed in Newsweek.” And then I started writing them.

Up to a few seconds ago I was pretty ambivalent about them. It seemed ridiculous (You know what’s ridiculous? The spelling of ridiculous.) that one person should tell me whether or not to watch a movie or buy a shirt based off of their own opinions. I mean, watching that eighty-something year old review Barnyard was just painful, although in the end I did agree with him (a quick note: I am almost completely positive that I watched this and did not enjoy it but in full disclosure I might have just seen the preview, my memories are fuzzy). And then the idea that someone should be basing their opinions off of my crappy blog post just frightened me (not that anyone is really reading this blog but you catch my drift.)

Recently I started justifying my avid reading of reviews in two ways:

  1. There is just way too many books, cds, pairs of underwear, movies, etc. coming out that trying to read/listen to/wear/watch them all is damnedly overwhelming and finding a reviewer who you tend to agree can help to keep you from reading/listening to/wearing/watching crap.
  2. Every once in a while they just shred it (The New Yorker‘s review of Bush’s new book) and that is just terrific good fun. Like a tiger mauling a bunny.

However there was always a part of my brain where I still felt icky about reviews until a few minutes ago when I read this strip from Questionable Content. My mind feels at peace now.

I’m not writing any more about this strip because I have no idea what the copyright laws are and although I would probably meet the strip’s creator if he sued me over it (something I really want to do- the meeting not the being sued) I really, really, really don’t want to be brought to court.

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