I have finally become a Virginia Woolf fan! I'm not sure if I just needed to encounter her a few times or needed to be in the mood to poetry to "get" her, but I finally get the obsession with her. I may not understand all that she's trying to say, but I understand her appeal.
I read Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse both a couple of years ago and while I liked both to some extent, I just didn't connect with Woolf. I prefer my novels to have at least character or plot, if not both! Woolf usually seems to have neither. But what she does have is beautiful, amazing language. And I finally got that this time, with The Waves.
I think it might be helpful to others coming to Woolf for the first time or who didn't like her at first to think of her as a poet, not a novelist. The Waves is really a book of poetry, not a novel. It doesn't matter if you can't quite figure out what's going on all the time or who's talking. What matters is the images she makes you see, the feelings she invokes.
The Waves covers the lives of a group of children as they grow up, age, and die. It compares life to the waves of the ocean, going in and out, ebbing and flowing. The children begin full of imagination and possibility. They truly believe if they close their eyes and believe hard enough, they can be anything, even a tree. Going to school begins to beat this out of you.
"So each night I tear off the old day from the calendar, and screw it tight into a ball...I revenge myself upon the day...You are dead now, I say, school day, hated day." Oh, how I have felt that way when I made a heavy line through a day on the calendar, either during a bad time at school or at work. This is what matters in the book, this feeling parts like this make you feel, not what happened to cause one of the characters feel this way.
One of the things I did feel that Woolf was saas that saying though was that we keep rushing forward to the next station in life, not realizing that in doing so we're rushing toward death. Makes you want to slow down! While every new day as a child is an adventure, every day begins to run together as an adult. You get up, you go to work, you come home, repeat, repeat, repeat. You can feel that monotony weigh down the characters toward the end. This work made me want to recapture some of that feeling of childhood - of viewing each day as an adventure.