Julie Christine's Reviews > A Haunted House and Other Short Stories

A Haunted House and Other Short Stories by Virginia Woolf
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it was amazing
bookshelves: classic, shorts, read-2016

“Safe, safe, safe,” the heart of the house beats proudly. “Long years—” he sighs. “Again you found me.” “Here,” she murmurs, “sleeping; in the garden reading; laughing, rolling apples in the loft. Here we left our treasure—” Stooping, their light lifts the lids upon my eyes. “Safe! safe! safe!” the pulse of the house beats wildly. Waking, I cry “Oh, is this your buried treasure? The light in the heart.”~The Haunted House
"Come, dream with me," beckons Virginia Woolf in this collection of eighteen stories, some previously published, some unfinished and offered up posthumously by her husband, Leonard.

This is the sensation I had while reading—dreaming scenes that seemed perfectly normal at first, but which were beset by a surreality, a super-reality shimmering just beneath the surface, signaling not all is as it seems.
"Here is something definite, something real. Thus, waking from a midnight dream of horror, one hastily turns on the light and lies quiescent, worshipping the chest of drawers, worshipping solidity, worshipping reality, worshipping the impersonal world which is a proof of some existence other than ours.”~Monday or Tuesday
This "worshipping the impersonal world which is a proof of some existence other than ours" is the theme at the heart of this collection. Woolf takes the impersonal world like a glass ball in her hands and cracks it open ever so slightly, revealing the chaos within.

In Kew Gardens, surely one of the finest in the collection, she juxtaposes the order of natural world with the disorder of human emotion.

Woolf shows in the tense and eerie The Mark on the Wall what the most minute shift of the kaleidoscope of our perspective can do to shape our chose reality.

A New Dress is an exercise in acute self-consciousness, a woman realizing, or imagining she knows, how she appears to others. It is a cruel and perceptive knife thrust at classism.
“She was a fly, but the others were dragonflies, butterflies, beautiful insects, dancing, fluttering, skimming, while she alone dragged herself up out of the saucer.”
Her skewering of Britain's gentry continues in the parodic The Shooting Party, which has a scene I had to read several times to make certain I understood what was happening. Why yes, the Squire does lash his whip about, causing Miss Rashleigh to fall into the fireplace, toppling the shield of the Rashleighs and a picture of King Edward. It's a laugh-out-loud moment of horror.

We talk about powerful opening lines in novel and short stories, but this. This may be one of my favorite closing lines, ever: "So that was the end of that marriage."~Lappin and Lapinova A devastating story of the fickle nature of . . . what? Love? Was there ever love here?

But speaking of opening lines, this one, belonging to The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection is sublime: “People should not leave looking-glasses hanging in their rooms any more then they should leave open cheque books or letters confessing some hideous crime.” It is also a perceptive and tragic story. One that will have you avoiding mirrors. For how can you trust what you see within? Is your reflection reality or a mistaken image of your own creation?

The Dalloways, particularly, Clarissa, make frequent appearances in this collection, as if Woolf had crafted small sketches, playing with her characters, trying to sort them out. I've not yet read Mrs. Dalloway, so perhaps the integration of these stories and the novel will become clear to me once I've put them all together.
Of all things, nothing is so strange as human intercourse, she thought, because of its changes, its extraordinary irrationality, her dislike being now nothing short of the most intense and rapturous love, but directly the word love occurred to her, she rejected it, thinking again how obscure the mind was, with its very few words for all these astonishing perceptions, these alternations of pain and pleasure. For how did one name this. That is what she felt now, the withdrawal of human affection, Serle’s disappearance, and the instant need they were both under to cover up what was so desolating and degrading to human nature that everyone tried to bury it decently from sight... ~Together and Apart
From the voice of a character, yet one feels the author keening to uncover what society, the society of her time, wants to desperately to hide: the vulnerability of human emotion, the insistence on "worshiping the impersonal world" instead of acknowledging the very personal within and without ourselves.

A beautiful, raw, vulnerable collection of stories, rendered in language both intimate and abstract. I remain in awe of Woolf's ability to transcend the limits of the word and create something divine.

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Quotes Julie Christine Liked

Virginia Woolf
“I want to think quietly, calmly, spaciously, never to be interrupted, never to have to rise from my chair, to slip easily from one thing to another, without any sense of hostility, or obstacle. I want to sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface, with its hard separate facts.”
Virginia Woolf, A Haunted House and Other Short Stories

Reading Progress

December 30, 2014 – Shelved
December 30, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
January 8, 2016 – Started Reading
January 9, 2016 –
page 58
39.19% "'Flaunted, leaf-light, drifting at corners, blown across the wheels, silver-splashed, home or not home, gathered, scattered, squandered in separate scales, swept up, down, torn, sunk, assembled—and truth?"\n ~from Monday or Tuesday\n Virginia Woolf flash fiction. I swoon."
January 10, 2016 – Shelved as: classic
January 10, 2016 – Shelved as: shorts
January 10, 2016 – Shelved as: read-2016
January 10, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Parthiban (new) - added it

Parthiban Sekar Beautiful review...

Julie Christine Parthiban wrote: "Beautiful review..." Thank you, Parthiban.

Julie Christine Sabah wrote: "Lovely review, julie." Oh Sabah, thank you!

message 4: by Carol (new)

Carol Beautiful review and very well done.

Julie Christine Carol wrote: "Beautiful review and very well done."

Thank you, Carol!

message 6: by Jaidee (new)

Jaidee Wow what a nice taste you gave us Julie...thank you.

Julie Christine Jaidee wrote: "Wow what a nice taste you gave us Julie...thank you."
Thank you, Jaidee!

Andi A lovely review of this stunning collection!

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