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The Waves

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  25,404 ratings  ·  2,019 reviews
Set on the coast of England against the vivid background of the sea, The Waves introduces six characters—three men and three women—who are grappling with the death of a beloved friend, Percival. Instead of describing their outward expressions of grief, Virginia Woolf draws her characters from the inside, revealing them through their thoughts and interior soliloquies. As ...more
Paperback, Penguin Modern Classics, 228 pages
Published February 3rd 2000 by Penguin Books (first published October 8th 1931)
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Mariana Luna It's not hard to read if you like detailed descriptions of places and feelings/thoughts; or if you enjoy introspection, since you will be inside…moreIt's not hard to read if you like detailed descriptions of places and feelings/thoughts; or if you enjoy introspection, since you will be inside characters' heads (there's no dialogue). It is confusing at the beginning, but once you pass the first pages, it starts to make sense. It doesn't use tough language either. Maybe a couple of words you might look in the dictionary.(less)

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Violet wells
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves, london
For the unprepared reader the first fifty pages can be as baffling as an unknown code. But once the code is cracked, the whole experiment has a brilliant simplicity.
Imagine this: a biography of you and your five best friends. From early childhood to death. Told not within the usual matrix of bald accountable facts, social landmarks of achievement and failure. But through a linguistic transposition of the ebb and flow, the forging and eroding, of the waves of our inner life. Those secret and
Sep 25, 2007 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
a great recommendation from a friend. Seems like it could be life-changing, or possibly a little sad or maybe both. The hand-written inscription in the copy I found used was worth the entire purchase anyway, read it:



I'm sure you know that you've been on my mind a great deal over the last few days. I've struggled for words to capture my own grief at your mom's death, to express my appreciation for yours, and perhaps, to offer some solace by explaining to you how strong an impression
The Waves Playlist

Pop songs, not classical or Jazz.

The characters

Rules: One song each. Gender matching. Must express as many of the key character traits as possible. I must love it.

Bernard: Bob Dylan – To Ramona
Susan: Kate bush - Mrs. Bartolozzi
Rhoda: Throwing Muses – Fear
Neville: Anthony and the Johnsons – Crazy in Love
Jinny: Julia Holter - Gold Dust Woman
Louis: Jeff Buckley - A Satisfied Mind

[Percival: John Cage - 4'33]

The novel

4 rules here -
Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
The Waves is an absolute masterpiece: it’s an incredible novel that flows beautifully with torrents of majestic prose.

“I see nothing. We may sink and settle on the waves. The sea will drum in my ears. The white petals will be darkened with sea water. They will float for a moment and then sink. Rolling over the waves will shoulder me under. Everything falls in a tremendous shower, dissolving me.”


This is creative genius at its absolute finest within fiction. I felt like I was floating, awash

The sun rose. Its rays fell in sharp wedges inside the room. Whatever the light touched became dowered with a fanatical existence. A plate was like a white lake. A knife looked like a dagger of ice. Suddenly my copy of ‘The Waves’ became alive as the clouds on the cover page started floating in resplendent movements and the water of the ocean moved swiftly over the edges of several dog-eared pages carrying along thousands of words written upon them, to a world they rightfully belongs to.
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2014
My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.

One of the greatest works of literary modernism, The Waves follows the inner lives of six friends from birth to death: the novel rejects conventional notions of plot in the interest of tracking the ebb and flow of consciousness over the course of a lifetime. Woolf alternates between the main characters' perspectives in each of the novel's nine sections, focusing upon the ways in which the friends' perception of each
Ahmad Sharabiani
654. The Waves, Virginia Woolf
The Waves is a 1931 novel by Virginia Woolf. It is considered her most experimental work, and consists of soliloquies spoken by the book's six characters: Bernard, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Jinny, and Louis. Also important is Percival, the seventh character, though readers never hear him speak in his own voice. The soliloquies that span the characters' lives are broken up by nine brief third-person interludes detailing a coastal scene at varying stages in a day from
The sun fell in sharp wedges inside the room. Whatever the light touched became dowered with a fanatical existence. A plate was like a white lake. A knife looked like a dagger of ice. Suddenly tumblers revealed themselves upheld by streaks of light.
As I turn the pages of The Waves, Virginia Woolf talks to me, to my heart, my spirit and my soul, like I could not have imagined. Such splendor and beauty come to me through her words, and I feel like singing with her. She sings life, a life that

I am in a fever.
Awareness is heightened.
Words have purple shadows.
Sentences gleam yellow-green
Paragraphs are lined in reddish gold
Everything shimmers, sharp as waves in sunlight.
The normal is abolished

Voices roll towards me, one upon another,
declaim their truth and roll away again, one upon another,
the arc of each voice different, the rhythm the same:
Bernard, Susan, Louis, Bernard.
Rhoda, Neville, Jinny, Bernard.
Louis, Neville, Susan, Bernard
Susan, Louis, Neville, Bernard,
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: eavesdroppers to their future selves
Recommended to Seemita by: the solitude found at the corner of my rearranged bookshelf
Hi. || Hi. || Is it you? || Yes, I am. || You look different. || Should I have been same? || Mmm... I don’t know. But you have my color. || In setting auburn, yes. || But it still looks content on your skin; that color – like a sheet of fine, wet porcelain covering a tired, antique statue. || And you look dazed, as if an army of nebulous thoughts have held you captive. || Is it so evident? || Yes. || I met a few people – Bernard, Susan, Louis… || …Jinny, Neville and Rhoda. I know. || Do you ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Probably my favorite book ever written. The 'waves' become a compound metaphor of sheer brilliance; we are all a harmony in the chorus of life, a part of a whole but each an individual part of beauty equally beautiful in solidarity as the whole. I wish I could write a single sentence as glorious as Woolf.
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tough one to review this because at times it feels like Virginia Woolf sees and knows things beyond the comprehension of us mere mortals! There are times when she seems to perceive quantum worlds through the sensibility of an animal, even an insect. There are also times when she maybe gets a bit carried away with her fanciful metaphors and other times when I wasn't able to quite follow her. But the best passages - and there are loads of them - make most other writing in comparison seem like ...more
Stephen P
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephen by: Proustitute Review
A review of second reading coming.

Initial Review:
We know so little of others. Barely we capture pieces of ourselves which can be cobbled together into what we believe ourselves to be; the unified presence necessary to calculate and cope with with the underside of the unfurling wave of life's chaos.

The book opens upon a group of innocents, small sensitive children at a private school in the country. They take turns, perhaps in a game, naming what is happening around them. Would children speak in
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bloomsbury
This is a wonderful novel; Woolf herself referred to it as a play-poem. Often when I’m thinking about a review I will read what others have written, do a bit of research about the context or author. In this case, that approach is not really possible because there is a whole industry around Woolf and her novels and people spend academic lifetimes on all this!
Woolf said she was writing to a rhythm and not to a plot and the novel is a series of interludes and episodes revolving around six
“No, but I wish to go under; to visit the profound depths; once in a while to exercise my prerogative not always to act, but to explore; to hear vague, ancestral sounds of boughs creaking, of mammoths, to indulge impossible desires to embrace the whole world with the arms of understanding, impossible to those who act.” - Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Virginia Woolf never ceases to amaze me. If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would actually enjoy books written in the
Lee Klein
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Best book ever, I said when I finished before returning to the first non-italicized page to re-read phrases that this time around didn't baffle (as much). A quarter through, as I started saying "wow" aloud at perfectly phrased phrases (that "land on two feet"), it was clear that this is and has always been an obvious canonical MVP. Tried reading it maybe ten years ago sitting in a Jiffy Lube waiting room, got to page 21 (dog-eared it), reading without retention, turning pages but not much else, ...more
"Yes, this is the eternal renewal, the incessant rise and fall and fall and rise again."
- Virginia Woolf, The Waves


I've read several of Woolf's books. I've loved them all: Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Jacob's Room, A Room of One's Own, Orlando. But I think I loved this one the most. I'm not sure. But the book is swelling in me tonight. It makes me travel back to the night when with my wife's grandfather and uncles, as I ritually dressed my wife's father for burial. It makes me think of all
Thus when I come to shape here at this table between my hands the story of my life and set it before you as a complete thing, I have to recall things gone far, gone deep, sunk into this life or that and become part of it; dreams, too, things surrounding me, and the inmates, those old half-articulate ghosts who keep up their hauntings by day and night; who turn over in their sleep, who utter their confused cries, who put out their phantom fingers and clutch at me as I try to escape—shadows of
Elie F
The absolute reign of flowing chaos

Jinny the glamourous Aphrodite; Susan the maternal nurturer; Rhoda the lesbian nymph; Bernard the egoless poet; Louis the class-conscious outsider; Neville the hypersensitive conservative; Percival the masculine god.

Percival's accidental death symbolizes the destruction of the patriarchal order and forces the six to search for new transcendental meanings to fill the empty spot. But Jinny cannot escape the transience of physical beauty; Susan gapes always for
Ian "Marvin" Graye

"The Waves" is arguably the greatest single work of literary Modernism, superior to Woolf’s own "Mrs Dalloway" and "To the Lighthouse" and potentially to Joyce’s "Ulysses".

The first two of these works are temporally much more limited in scope, the last so stylistically diverse that it can’t be said to have a singular integrity (which is not to criticize it; this criterion is quite the opposite of its design and intent).

"The Waves" extends beyond one occasion and encapsulates
Jun 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book several times. The first attempt my mind drifted off half the time because there is no plot (which is perfectly fine). I wandered so much that I had to reread the final chapter but by the time I got to the last two pages I burst into tears. It vouches for the power of a book when the reader can be so moved by the ending after only truly paying attention to the final chapter.
I love what The Waves says about being human, being flawed, the importance of small events, small
Julie Christine
For three weeks I have looked at this book on my desk, trying to summon the necessary courage to write up my thoughts. Courage, because whatever I say will be an inadequate, tepid articulation of how The Waves made me feel.
'I was running,' said Jinny, 'after breakfast. I saw leaves moving in a hole in the hedge. I thought "That is a bird on its nest." I parted them and looked; but there was no bird on a nest. The leaves went on moving. I was frightened. I ran past Susan, past Rhoda, and
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was looking forward eagerly to opening the first page of the next V.W. book after Orlando gave me high hopes that nothing is impossible. According to my one week vacation plan I picked up two of them. The lucky winner as standing out brightly in the first row was The Waves. Why? Because it started with lines like these: << The sun had not yet risen. The sea was not separated from the sky; it was only slightly creased, like a bunch of folds. Slowly and slowly, as the sky whitened, a dark ...more
Who's got their claws in you my friend?
Into your heart I'll beat again

D.J. Matthews, 12/96

Six classmates (3 girls and 3 boys) go through seven stages of life via a sequence of interior monologues, sprinkled with allusions to the Earth's relation to the Sun and to the moon's gravitational pull on the ocean--the tides--as time passes.

This is my favorite Woolf novel; it's such a beautiful composition and an incredible feat to create the feel and sense that the characters are flowing and breaking
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poetry in prose.
Woolf writes without rules, no punctuation, no paragraphs, pure sensations, disarrayed and irrational thoughts, explosion of feelings.
We see life through the eyes of six characters, three men and three women, each one strikingly different from the other but close friends and lovers, from childhood to old age.

Early innocence, pure thoughts, playful games become more and more complicated when the characters grow up. It was devastating to witness how everyday life could break the
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I found some notes I took on this book a long time ago, and it desperately made me want to dive into the world of Virginia Woolf again. The Waves is probably her most challenging work (at least out of the ones I've read), and I certainly needed plenty of time, and some help, to penetrate it.

This book is carried by rhythm, not plot. A poetic, dramatic description of nature and human life and all its dynamics. The sensory descriptions in it are unmatched. Writing a coherent review is difficult,
“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, 'Consume me'.”
Virginia Woolf ~~ The Waves


The most beautiful book I have ever read. It truly is Woolf's Masterpiece. No one has ever written of childhood, youth, middle age, and old age as eloquently as Woolf. Her prose here is stunning.

The Waves is considered her most experimental novel. Rather than a plot-driven story, the stream-of-consciousness novel is told in a series of soliloquies by its main characters.

A full
This novel is without a doubt a work of art, a masterpiece, one of the best of the 20th century by, quite possibly, the greatest female writer who ever lived. The beauty, the poetry of the written word in this book is beyond description. She must have been so proud when she finished writing this, she had to know it was special. This book has my highest recommendation.
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Waves is is an incredible novel. It beautifully and poetically captures the experience of living and growing throughout one's life, from the slow gathering of consciousness in childhood, and the formation of identity, to the energy and wild optimism of young adulthood, to the eventual bitterness, desperation and regret (and perhaps clarity) of later life.

The novel blurs the lines between the individual and the collective experience, acknowledging the importance of others in constructing our
Luís C.
Difficult to make a critique of The Waves, it is a text that feels but only in an absolute way. Invasive as the flow of the mind, emotions, the deep course of existence ... I read it long ago, it is always present in my memory, it lives and enriched me. Not only because of my resonance with the essence of what is delivered there (and the extracts I have piously relieved from it), rather by the wonder of discovering there a form of perfection in literature. The form is released but to better ...more
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(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
“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, 'Consume me'.” 1522 likes
“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” 1055 likes
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