Seven friends are together since nursery. Bernard, Jinny, Louis, Neville, Rhoda, Susan and Percival. Nursery is located in a house with a garden right by the sea. Just like Virginia’s childhood summer house in St Ives. The sound of the waves is tattooed on the skin of their memories. “Chained beast stumps on the beach. It stamps and stamps.”
Meditative, rhythmic. Paragraph after paragraph. Head gets a bit dizzy, but soon I fall in love with the wavelike rhythm. Poetic novel “The Waves” by Virginia Woolf, the most experimental of her works, is woven entirely of soliloquies spoken by the book’s six characters.
Also important is Percival, the seventh character, though readers never hear him speak in his own voice. Everyone loves Percival. Unfortunately he falls from a horse and dies when young, just like Virginia’s brother Thoby, who contracted typhoid at the age of 26 while on holiday in Greece, and died shortly after. Percival remains as a mysterious hero, who is mentioned often but never says a word in this book. Mysterious and deeply loved.
Nursery, school, youth, family, job, aging. They all meet again and again. You hear how their thoughts change, but they themselves don’t.
Rhoda is afraid of everything. She finds her soothing escape during nights when dreaming the dreams. When awake, she has to touch something solid to not to dissolve into ungraspable reality. Rhoda thinks, she has no face.
Jinny is like a dancing flame, attractive, teasing, living in reality and celebrating it. Party diva, a playful flow. “Come,” is her golden key.
Susan has green eyes and she can take a deep breath only when in nature. Far away from school, far away from London, because in the city she suffocates and suffers. When grown-up, she has children, rough hands and a healthy attitude.
Louis senses all the lives, his soul has ever lived. He hears women singing by the Nile, although that was thousands of years ago. That is why he leads his present life as a business. Appointments in his daily planner anchors him to here and now. To clear away the prehistoric density, he becomes a successful businessman. Although he still is an attic dweller with an old and dusty soul.
Bernard is a story teller. He ignites when in people. Phrases fly like bubbles from his mouth, like rings of smoke. Everything is a story. Until his hair become gray and he becomes tired from all that and longs “for some little language such as lovers use, broken words, inarticulate words, like the shuffling of feet on the pavement.”
Neville wonders, how scarce is our knowledge about each other. How infinite we are in ourselves, and how finite and one-sided we become in the eyes of others. He grasps the moment, when the infinite Neville, who approaches the table at a restaurant, becomes Neville the friend of these five other people.
Virginia Woolf has X-ray eyes. She inflates readers with the kaleidoscope of life with such a beautiful intensity that you cry and laugh at the same time. The book is her magic funnel.
Life is not a solid ground, and Virginia Woolf teaches us how to walk on water.