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 companionsâamong them her aunt Helen, who judges Rachel to be "vacillating," "emotional," and "more than normally incompetent for her years"âRachel 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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