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The Voyage Out

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  8,874 ratings  ·  648 reviews
Woolf’s first novel is a haunting book, full of light and shadow. It takes Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose and their niece, Rachel, on a sea voyage from London to a resort on the South American coast. “It is a strange, tragic, inspired book whose scene is a South America not found on any map and reached by a boat which would not float on any sea, an America whose spiritual boundaries ...more
Paperback, 375 pages
Published February 3rd 2003 by Mariner Books (first published 1915)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  8,874 ratings  ·  648 reviews


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Fionnuala
I’m sitting in front of my computer screen wondering which of several angles to choose in order to make this review something more than just another account of the plot and characters of The Voyage Out (1915).

My copy of the book is on the desk beside me and I’m sorting through the various passages I’ve underlined looking for the slant that will please me most. The following line describing leading character Helen Ambrose catches my eye: She had her embroidery frame set up on deck, with a little
...more
Lisa
Three things happened to me while voyaging on the underground because of this book:

1) As I admire Virginia Woolf immensely and identify with her issues and topics, I tried very hard to concentrate deeply enough to be able to read in a very distractive environment - squished into a full train.

I fought against all odds to read the following paragraph:

"She was deep in the fifth book, stopping indeed to pencil a note, when a pair of boots dropped, one after another, on the floor above her. She look
...more
Violet wells
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
How flimsy are the accroutrements of civilisation in the face of nature.

It’s like it took Virginia a third of this novel to get out of her Victorian stays, chemises, petticoats and corsets. Once she shakes off all the Victorian trappings though she moves with beautiful poise and clarity of purpose. So, it’s quite heavy footed to begin with, not as modern in tone and treatment as Forster who had already written a couple of his novels when she wrote this. It’s as if Woolf has to free herself of t
...more
Candi
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics-shelf
Rachel Vinrace sets out on a voyage from the confines of her home in England, where she is raised by her spinster aunts, to the exotic coast of South America in the early twentieth century. But more than just the physical journey from one shore to another, The Voyage Out is a story of the transformation of this essentially unworldly girl to a more self-possessed woman in love with the seemingly enlightened yet searching young writer, Terence Hewet. Some of the most lovely and illuminating writin ...more
Michael
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, favorites
Self-consciously recalling the fiction of Jane Austen, The Voyage Out makes strange the conventions of the nineteenth-century British novel. Woolf's first novel, published in 1915 in the midst of the First World War, echoes so many features of the past century's most popular form of literature. Be it the story's creaky adherence to the marriage plot or the omniscient narrator's stilted interest in the female protagonist's moral education, most of the novel dutifully relies on conventions it know ...more
Rakhi Dalal
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Woolf fans
Shelves: woolf, bloomsbury, journey

“Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”
― Virginia Woolf, Modern Fiction


If we look at her works, what we evidently notice is that the idea which most engages Virginia Woolf is that of life itself. Life as it is witnessed every day, the transition from one moment to the other and everything that comes in between. A life not symmetrically arranged in a destined p
...more
Cheryl
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vintage
"We may not always understand the pattern in front of us, Woolf seems to be saying, and we may spend the majority of our life isolated from others and trapped within our own experience, but only by reconnecting to the pattern through people and through art can we truly be alive," writes Pagan Harleman, the Woolf scholar who wrote this fascinating introduction to my Barnes and Noble Classics edition of The Voyage Out.

This voyage out really seems to be a voyage in, into the conscious choices of s
...more
Diane S ☔
3.5 Hard for me to define my feelings on this novel, a stream of consciousness novel that has a great many characters. Woolf herself was an observer of people, of society and that is certainly apparent in her characters, their thoughts and the situations in which they find themselves. This is not an easy read, though it is a thought provoking one. One the one hand I am not sure that it needed as many characters as there were, made this more confusing than it needed to be. Some of the thoughts an ...more
WILLIAM2
Overall I found the novel on second reading to be very good. The fully developed Woolfian sense of humor is here. In the early going the book doesn't seem at all inferior to later more experimental works. Though those later works are leaner, more engaged with how to represent cognition in a text. In the later works, too, there is a somewhat greater ability to condense events to the numinous moment. That's here, too, but I think such moments get a little lost in the somewhat larger, more expansiv ...more
Mariel
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: wanna win don't play
Recommended to Mariel by: colonize Mars on Earth Day
I wrote a review of The Voyage Out in July, 2012 after I read it. I deleted it because I lash out ("Stupid, stupid, stupid!") at myself. It's just a book review, Mars. I don't know how to use semi colons. I recognize them no more than I would see the brush strokes on a painting. The Virginia Woolf reviews on this site are more than a little intimidating. It isn't just because of the semi-colons but I gotta admit that I feel like Laura in The Glass Menagerie when she arrives to school late and ca ...more
Jacob
22 February, 2014

Mr. H. Melville, Esq.
c/o The Spouter Inn, New Bedford, MA

My Dear Melville,

I pray this letter finds you well, as, you no doubt noticed, I could not do so in person. Do accept my apologies; since our whaling voyage two years ago it has been my fondest wish to journey with you again, and, indeed, it was my intention to visit you at the beginning of this year; but, alas, I have been detained by Mrs. Woolf. Damn that woman, she is too good! I did not mean to tarry long with her, but
...more
Tim
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I live near Charleston, Vanessa Bell’s old house. Often when friends visit me I take them there for the afternoon. Therefore I always feel a bit embarrassed when I have to admit I’ve never read Virginia Woolf. So I’ve finally rectified that.
My first impression was that this is much easier to read than I expected. There isn’t much that’s modern about it. But then it was her first novel and no doubt she was still testing her powers. It’s essentially about a group of perhaps overly sophisticated i
...more
Petra
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
What an incredible first novel! A young woman tells the story of how people view life events differently in different times of their lives. The young view things one way, the more senior another; men view things differently than women. It is a wonderful look at the world in a microcosm of people.
At the same time, is the story of Rachel's maturing and coming into herself. She grows from a naive, unthinking girl into a wiser, self-thinking young woman. She is at least starting to think for hersel
...more
Michael
It was a pleasure to experience a precursor to Woolf’s genius, but the work is missing the cohesion and power of her later work. I did appreciated some of ironies and satirical takes on the British imperial outlook and its intrinsic classism and sexism of the time. But all that was fairly restrained. Still, it was fascinating to look for the truth behind the concept the “the child is the father of the man”, or woman in this case.

Middle-aged Helen Ambrose ambarks on a ocean excursion to South Ame
...more
Teresa
Feb 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
…other people whose identity was so little developed that the Ambroses did not discover that they possessed names. This quote from the book states my main problem with the book, even though the characters I’m thinking of do have names. Also, there are too many of them. Even the Dalloways make a brief, though memorable, appearance; and except for Mr. Dalloway’s one effect on Rachel, the main character (at least I think she is; she’s the only one that changes), I’m not sure what the Dalloways are ...more
Annelies
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just perfect! Love it!
Duane
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I personally consider Virginia Woolf the greatest writer of the 20th century, period, bar none, man or woman, doesn't matter. But I'm not a writer myself so I don't have the ability, I can't find the words to express what I feel about what I've read. Many of you can and do write beautiful reviews worthy of the books they honor. Many times I've said, "that's how I feel, that's what I think". Oh well.

Having said that, this book is not one of her best. It's not bad, it's very good actually, it just
...more
El
Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Freaking fantastic.

Rachel Vinrace is a naive and vulnerable 24-year-old young woman on a sea voyage from London to a South American resort with her aunt and uncle. Having been sheltered the first 24 years of her life, Rachel is exceptionally shy and startled when meeting new people on the ship, particularly when they show genuine interest in her as a person and as an intellectual. The relationships she forms with these people affect her greatly, and she even falls in love. This isn't just a book
...more
berthamason
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this book for my paper on the 19th century novel. It was the last novel we read for that course and the idea was to discuss how Virginia Woolf deconstructed the structure of the traditional novel while establishing the modernist novel in the process. The Voyage Out is a very hard novel to describe: on the surface is about a group's trip to a fictional island located somewhere in South America; deep down it seems to be about the constraints of social convention and how they affect p ...more
Viv JM
Having (to my shame) never read any Virginia Woolf, I decided to start with this, her first novel. It tells the story of a voyage from England to an unnamed country in South America. Among the passengers on this voyage are an innocent young woman, Rachel, and her aunt and uncle. The book is set partly on the ship, and then continues at a hotel in South America. Although it tells Rachel's story, there are many other different characters, both on the boat and at the hotel, whose lives and loves we ...more
BrokenTune
Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-edwardians
2.5*
St. John had just come through the swing door. He was rather blown about by the wind, and his cheeks looked terribly pale, unshorn, and cavernous. After taking off his coat he was going to pass straight through the hall and up to his room, but he could not ignore the presence of so many people he knew, especially as Mrs. Thornbury rose and went up to him, holding out her hand. But the shock of the warm lamp-lit room, together with the sight of so many cheerful human beings sitting together a
...more
Elaine
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, 2016, audio
It took me 3 months to listen to this, as I listened to almost every passage at least 2x, as Juliet Stevenson's voice constructed the peculiar insular world of a group of English people a century ago on first a ship, and then at a hotel abroad. I liked it surprisingly much, even as it is a gentler, less subtle and more conventional Woolf than the puzzler of the later novels.

I think the thing that I found most intriguing was the sense that 100 years ago, with its confusion about women's roles in
...more
Sonja ✧・゚。★*☾
9.25/10
She became a ship passing in the night - an emblem of the loneliness of human life, an occasion for queer confidences and sudden appeals for sympathy.
The Voyage Out is Virginia Woolf's literary debut and it is absolutely fantastic! I have to admit that when I started this novel I was hesitant and I was sure that it was just a classic. I thought I'd like it and maybe slightly enjoy it; but never love it. I've never been more wrong.

As soon as I finished the first chapter I realised tha
...more
Debbie Zapata
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gutenberg
Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? I certainly was before I read The Voyage Out, the first novel she wrote. I may still be conquered when I try her later work in the infamous stream of consciousness style, but I am no longer intimidated by the idea, especially if she retains the wonderful ability to create stunning images and ideas the way she did in this book, which was not necessarily difficult to read, but does deserve 100% of
your attention.

The Voyage Out mainly tells the story of Rachel Vinra
...more
Paul Fulcher
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
I discovered Virginia Woolf rather late in my reading life, in my mid 40s. The first three novels of hers I read were Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and The Waves - all absolutely magnificent, and based simply on those three novels I would have no hesitation rankings Woolf as the greatest British novelist. Orlando, which I read next, was not quite at the same level but still wonderful.

So I must admit, judged by her own incredibly high bar, to finding her debut novel, The Voyage Out, a relative
...more
Roman Clodia
'You see, I'm not as simple as most women,' Evelyn continued. 'I think I want more. I don't know exactly what I feel.'
He sat by her, watching her and refraining from speech.
'I sometimes think I haven't got it in me to care very much for one person only. Some one else would make you a better wife. I can imagine you very happy with some one else.'


My least favourite of Woolf's novels to date, this is full of possibilities and potentialities, most of which don't come to fruition. Or do they? Does it
...more
Sandy
So much has been written about Virginia Woolf and her work that I will not pretend to write a "review". Suffice it to say that, after a disappointing and unsuccessful attempt to read To the Lighthouse one year ago, I have managed to finish The Voyage Out.

This is a wonderful story which is packed full of stunning descriptions of place - both interior and exterior; unique and eccentric characters; sensitive evocations of a variety of human emotions; moods and memories; wishes and regrets. Virgini
...more
Chrissie
ETA: There is in fact a reason for Woolf including so many characters, and there is another theme too - how people react to a life changing event, in this case (view spoiler). Woolf looks at people's behavior, the behavior of family members, close friends and other acquaintances too. All these people were a necessary part of the book. You can observe Woolf observing people and our different ways of behaving. This book does not leave you when completed! No, it's quite a good ...more
Selkie ✦ Queen

"To feel anything strongly was to create an abyss between oneself and others who feel strongly perhaps but differently. It appeared that nobody ever said a thing they meant, or ever talked of a feeling they felt, but that was what music was for."


I read Virginia Woolf for the second time last year with her non-fiction essays A Room Of One's Own, and Three Guineas. The first time I've encountered her was when I bought a secondhand copy of Carlyle's House and Other Sketches. I found her so intr
...more
Lotte
Before starting this book, I had previously read Mrs. Dalloway and a couple of excerpts from a few of Virginia Woolf's other novels and having struggled with her experimental modernist writing, I was kind of wary going into this. However, I was very happy to find out that this (her debut novel) presents a more realist, straightforward narration with an easily discernible plot line. In short, it’s about a party of English people embarking on a trip to South America and while it doesn’t technicall ...more
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15,248 followers
(Adeline) Virginia Woolf was an English novelist and essayist regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century.

During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and Orlando (1928), and the book-length e
...more

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