REVIEW: The Years by Virginia Woolf

REVIEW: The Years by Virginia WoolfThe Years by Virginia Woolf
Published: Mariner Books (1937), Paperback, 444pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Fiction

The principal theme of this ambitious book is Time, threading together three generations of an upper-class English family, the Pargiters. The characters come and go, meet, talk, think, dream, grow older, in a continuous ritual of life that eludes meaning.

It’s been a while since we read this for my Virginia Woolf class, so forgive me if I can’t remember everything I wanted to say about it. I definitely flip-flopped about what I felt about The Years–it was boring, it was fascinating, why the hell am I reading this– but by the end I flopped on the side of “really liked it.”

My reading of The Years came immediately after The Waves. Whereas with The Waves I said something like the book would be super boring if it didn’t have an interesting writing style to hide behind, The Years doesn’t have that interesting writing style to hide behind and yet somehow the banality of real life is still intriguing.

I’m not much for books that are just people going around talking about the weather and if that tea pot is going to boil any time soon, but that’s exactly what The Years is about. And yet I liked it! And I think it was partly because of the characters themselves, who aren’t particularly outstanding in personality but are fun nonetheless, and partly because of the concept of the book, which is to follow a single family through 50+ years of life and death. Trying to figure out why one character ended up marrying another and putting the pieces together re:what happened in the gap between two chapters made it sort of like a mystery, almost, and that was fun.

Gah, that was a lot of speculating. Anyway, besides all that, I also liked what VW had to say about people getting old, and I liked Eleanor, who was a free-spirited sort of person, and I liked how the characters took over the story of uber-reality and made it bearable. I don’t like The Years as much as I like Orlando or To the Lighthouse, but I certainly like it more than The Waves. I wouldn’t recommend reading this one first if you’ve never read a VW book before, but I wouldn’t skip it, either.

Read: April 16-17, 2010

Does anyone know what that Sally/Sarah thing was about? Does she have two names? Is she a split personality? Wtf was going on there? The annotations are NO help.

6 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Years by Virginia Woolf”

  1. I can help you here – Sara is her name, Sally is her petname/nickname. Quite common to replace Sara w/ Sally for some reason 😉 No other reasons, I’m fairly sure.

    1. Thank you SO much. I’m surprise my prof didn’t say anything about it, nor the annotations either. I’m always confused when a nickname is longer/completely different from the full name, lol. 😀

  2. Interesting note, though I think one should be careful of falling into an extreme impressionistic analysis: “I like”, “I don’t like”, “Super Boring”, “Fun”, etc. For sure, the narration proposes much more than just these volatile impressions.

    1. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have an “extreme impressionistic analysis” in a personal book review. Isn’t a reader’s immediate response to a book always emotional anyway? And then after that immediate, “volatile” response is over with that the reader can then go deeper into a non-emotional analysis of the text if they want to. Just because an author was trying to do more than invoke an emotional response from a reader doesn’t mean the reader won’t have one, or that the reader will want to do anything else besides talk about that emotional response.

      On my blog I only really talk about my emotional reaction to a book/characters/plot/etc because that’s what I’m interested in reading in a review, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about other stuff, too– I just tend to write about that stuff in papers for my classes! 😀

  3. Of course it’s your right to choose that. I didn’t mean to say it was “bad”, and I thank you, because this is one of the few sources I could find that was talking about this wonderful book. I think literature is a way of connecting, and (sometimes) disagreeing, but most of the times, sharing! Keep them coming, n.

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