The Voyage Out (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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The Voyage Out, by Virginia Woolf, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
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The Voyage Out (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

The Voyage Out, by Virginia Woolf, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

We meet young, free-spirited Rachel Vinrace aboard her father's ship, the Euphrosyne, departing London for South America. Surrounded by a clutch of genteel companions—among them her aunt Helen, who judges Rachel to be "vacillating," "emotional," and "more than normally incompetent for her years"—Rachel displays a startling maturity when she finds her engagement to the writer Terence Hewet listing toward disaster. As she soon discovers, "tragedies come in the hungry hours."

Published in 1915, The Voyage Out is Virginia Woolf's first novel, and it is written in a more traditional narrative style than the one she later perfected. But this maiden voyage predicts Woolf's future triumphs in its elegant delineation of the troubles plaguing modern life and its satire of the upper class. As Rachel's peculiar fellow passengers expand their minds with the ideas of Aristotle and Shelley, they meanwhile suffer from the societal ennui that education and sophistication cannot overcome.

Filled with cutting insights about politics, literature, gender, and modern relationships, The Voyage Out is a finely perceived impression of the overriding confusion that immediately followed World War I.

Pagan Harleman is a freelance writer and filmmaker living in New York City.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593082291
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 1/1/2005
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Edition description: Barnes & Noble Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 377,847
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Virginia Woolf
Pagan Harleman is a freelance writer and filmmaker living in New York City.

Biography

Virginia Woolf is now recognized as a major twentieth-century author, a great novelist and essayist and a key figure in literary history as a feminist and a modernist. Born in 1882, she was the daughter of the editor and critic Leslie Stephen, and suffered a traumatic adolescence after the deaths of her mother, in 1895, and her stepsister Stella, in 1897, leaving her subject to breakdowns for the rest of her life. Her father died in 1904 and two years later her favorite brother Thoby died suddenly of typhoid. With her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, she was drawn into the company of writers and artists such as Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, later known as the Bloomsbury Group. Among them she met Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912, and together they founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, which was to publish the work of T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and Katherine Mansfield as well as the earliest translations of Freud. Woolf lived an energetic life among friends and family, reviewing and writing, and dividing her time between London and the Sussex Downs. In 1941, fearing another attack of mental illness, she drowned herself.

Her first novel, The Voyage Out, appeared in 1915, and she then worked through the transitional Night and Day (1919) to the highly experimental and impressionistic Jacob's Room (1922). From then on her fiction became a series of brilliant and extraordinarily varied experiments, each one searching for a fresh way of presenting the relationship between individual lives and the forces of society and history. She was particularly concerned with women's experience, not only in her novels but also in her essays and her two books of feminist polemic, A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938). Her major novels include Mrs. Dalloway (1925), the historical fantasy Orlando (1928), written for Vita Sackville-West, the extraordinarily poetic vision of The Waves (1931), the family saga of The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941).

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Adeline Virginia Stephen Woolf (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 25, 1882
    2. Place of Birth:
      London
    1. Date of Death:
      March 28, 1941
    2. Place of Death:
      Sussex, England

Read an Excerpt

From Pagan Harleman’s Introduction to The Voyage Out

At the age of twenty-five Virginia Woolf began work on her first novel, initially titled Melymbrosia. She had just lost her favorite brother, Thoby, to death and her best friend and sister, Vanessa, to marriage, and was feeling lonely and orphaned and angry at the solution people proposed: "I wish everyone didn’t tell me to marry" (The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol.1: 1888–1912, p. 274; see "For Further Reading"). At the time Woolf had never had a serious relationship with a man and was apprehensive about sex and disdainful of marriage, which she feared would require her to surrender not just her independence but her sense of self. She was also furious about women’s limited choices and their subjugated position in a male-orchestrated society. She poured all of these feelings and fears into her novel.

Woolf had high ambitions for her first novel; in a letter to her brother-in-law Clive Bell she vowed, "I shall re-form the novel and capture multitude of things at present fugitive" (Letters, vol. 1, p. 356). In Woolf’s later work—most notably the masterpieces Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves—she succeeded in her goal of reforming the novel by developing a writing style entirely her own, one that used stream of consciousness and symbolism, not plot, to organize her material. These novels do not build to a climactic conclusion as much as they travel through a series of cascading epiphanies. In The Voyage Out, however, Woolf was still writing under the shadow of E. M. Forster and the traditional novel; she was not yet ready to venture into such new terrain. One can see her experimenting, slowly honing the style that was to become her hallmark, but where later she was fearless, here she is tentative, still depending on plot, not style, to drive the narrative.

On the surface The Voyage Out is structured around the tried-and-true marriage plot perfected by Jane Austen. A young, naive single woman, Rachel Vinrace, leaves on a voyage for South America and is taken under the wing of her more experienced Aunt Helen, who vows to educate Rachel in the ways of the world. Instinctively the reader feels the story will center on the question of whether Rachel will be successfully "educated" and assimilate into society through marriage. The introspective quality of the novel, however, contradicts this assumption; this is a story about not what people do or say but what they feel and how they experience.

The Voyage Out is also a meditation of sorts on three open-ended questions: What is love? Why do people marry? And what choices do women have in the here and now? Interwoven with these questions are several recurring themes, most notably the arrogant hypocrisy of the English middle class and the limits of communication. Woolf displays a light and ironic touch in several sections, particularly when she is satirizing English attitudes, but ultimately this is a contemplative novel about the solitary nature of our experience as human beings. Woolf signals her more serious intentions through an unconventional approach: She displaces the traditional marriage plot with uncertainty, confusion, suffering, and ultimately death.

The story of Woolf’s early life is itself overshadowed by uncertainty, suffering, and death. She was born in 1882 to Leslie and Julia Stephen, an upper-middle-class London couple. Leslie Stephen was an accomplished writer well known for his intellectual honesty, his atheism, and his stubbornness. He first married Minny Thackeray, niece of William Thackeray, and they had a daughter, Laura Stephen, before Minny died young. Julia Stephen, born Julia Jackson, was a relative of the pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron; she had three children—George, Stella, and Gerald—from a previous marriage to Herbert Duckworth, before Herbert’s sudden death. Julia and Leslie had four children of their own—Vanessa, Thoby, Virginia, and Adrian.

The house, then, that Virginia grew up in was full and chaotic; there were eight children, two parents, four stories, and seven servants. Leslie worked at home, writing in his library, while Julia tutored the Stephen children in an enthusiastic but somewhat unsystematic fashion. In recollections of her childhood Virginia said she rarely spent more than five minutes alone with her mother, who was always rushing to attend to the needs of Leslie, the house, the children, or her charity projects, and yet Virginia recalled a relatively happy childhood. Her fondest and indeed her most primal memory was that of the waves breaking outside the family’s summer house in Cornwall, a womblike memory she vividly describes in her autobiographical essay "A Sketch of the Past": "It is of hearing the waves breaking one, two, one, two and . . . feeling the purest ecstasy I can conceive" (Moments of Being, pp. 6465). The vision of the sea as nurturing is prominent throughout Woolf’s work, and The Voyage Out is no exception in this regard. Rachel turns to the sea again and again when she is confused or troubled; she endows it with a mysterious but calming power, although water is inextricably linked throughout the narrative to both desire and death.

When Virginia was thirteen her childhood ended suddenly when her mother caught a fever and abruptly died. The whole family was crushed, and Leslie was all but inconsolable, but for Virginia the blow was devastating. She began to exhibit signs of nervous tension and to hallucinate, and then had a full-scale nervous breakdown. There was already a pattern of mental illness in Virginia’s family: Her half sister Laura had been placed in an institution; her cousin J. K. Stephen had gone mad and also been institutionalized; and her father, Leslie, suffered from depression. Clearly there was a possibility that Virginia’s illness was genetic and biochemical, but at the time mental illness was seriously misunderstood and mistreated. The family doctor prescribed outdoor exercise four hours a day, regular glasses of milk, and no unnecessary excitement. Stella, Virginia’s older half sister, who had taken over as matriarch, supervised Virginia’s treatment, and Virginia slowly recovered.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 80 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 82 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    Great for first time Virginia Woolf readers

    I'd wanted to read her novels for years, but wasn't sure I was up for them. This is a great first read, her first novel, in beginner's style, before she got too far out there. The prose is great.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2008

    Fantastic!

    This book was fantastic! I love to read classic novels and this one not only drew me in immediately, but kept me hooked. V.W has a literary style that is unsurpassed by other women of her time, with an ebb and flow that most women fail to possess. It is an accurate portrayl of a woman that is secluded from the rest of society and has a lack of basic social knowledge. Though I didn't agree with the aspects of feminism, I must say that all men would benifit from reading this, as it lends a window into the mind of women. If this don't make you stop and think of your life and mentality every ten pages, then nothing will.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2007

    Review

    'The Voyage Out' is a very interesting story about the education and growth of a 24 year old girl in the 20th Century. I highly recommended reading it in Barnes & Nobles edition specially to students like me who are beginning the American Classics because it contains very helpful explanations of historical facts or expressions of that time. It includes also a detailed biography of the author and an introductory explanation of the book's context which was great because I was unfamiliar with Virginia Wolf's life or work. Only with this help I could fully understand this extraordinary book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2007

    Fantastic!

    This was the first Barnes and Noble classic I read, and the story instantly drew me in. I had recently seen 'The Hours' and wondered if Virginia Woolf wrote similarly to the way she was in real life. I was completely wrong. This story is entertaining and refreshing just like a voyage out!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A wonderful novel by Woolf

    The Voyage out is Woolf's first published novel. This shows through her timidity, and the style, techniques we are used to in her later novels have not developed, or concretely settled down yet. So it's like discovering a whole new Virginia Woolf that is so different from the one, we might be used to by her "Mrs.Dalloway", "Orlando" or "Jacob's Room". In it, there is a whole new thrill and excitement about this book that is very different than the rest of her novels.
    Rachel, the story's protagonist is just a young girl who is coming of age and is learning to break through her shell which she has developed by living in her own world that has the walls of a voyage ship. Finally settling down with her aunt and uncle, she has new experiences and builds new relationships in which increasingly pushes her to the path of marital bliss. There are a lot of tensions, social and political commentary and a great way to understand the England of the time and the different kinds of English women are portrayed in the book, quite cleverly might I add?
    Just as everything is going great for Rachel and her fiancee, Rachel who meets a tragic end leaves the novel with a lot of questions that even arises in our own modern interpretation of our own worlds that we live in today.
    It's a great reflective novel that which portrays so many different kinds of women, circumstances and ideology that it is impossible not to relay those reflections into our own inner and physical worlds.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2010

    Okay, but not her best.

    I would not suggest starting with this book if you have not read anything by Virginia Woolf. I am not really sure why Barnes and Noble picked this novel to publish instead of her later works. "The Voyage Out" is okay but you probably won't finish being wowed or wanting to read another one of her books soon after. I would start with "Mrs. Dalloway" or "To the Lighthouse" first.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2010

    Loving the Classics

    :)

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not her best

    Woolfe has done better like with Day and Night, Mrs. Dalloway.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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