I first read The Waves when I was seventeen and it’s been in my mind ever since. Just recently -after looking out for it in every bookshop in town- I finally found my own copy. Naturally I immediately re-read it and contrary to what I thought nothing of its power has diminished for me. I used to think I loved it so much then because my mind was at the peak of teenagedom, hormones were raging and tears were flowing. But no, Virginia still conquers my heart with every single word. I fell in love with the description of the struggle of life, the end of life even back then and now, I have lost my mind in my own adoration for her. It’s so tender and soft, so psychologically intricate. She poignantly describes the essence of her characters by their simple actions, thoughts and doubts. It’s impossible to dislike any of them since there’s at least one single trait you must own as well.
Here’s Rhoda -whom, admittedly, I didn’t like all that much at the age of seventeen but who is now my favourite character- thinking and panicking when left alone in the classroom to solve sums:
‘The clock ticks. The two hands are convoys marching through a desert. The black bars on the clock face are green oases. The long hand has marched ahead to find water. The other, painfully stumbles among hot stones in the desert. It will die in the desert. The kitchen door slams. Wild dogs bark far away. Look, the loop of the figure is beginning to fill with time; it holds the world in it. I begin to draw a figure and the world is looped in it, and I myself am outside the loop; which I now join -so- and seal up, and make entire. The world is entire, and I am outside of it, crying, “Oh save me, from being blown for ever outside the loop of time!”‘
Their insecurities immediately catch your heart and never let it go. It’s quite effortlessly a fantastic novel. Yet I’ve seen many take issue with the stream of consciousness. This might be because they read it as a novel. Consistent of nothing but soliloquies of thoughts, I think you should start reading it as one rapturous prose poem. Let the beauty of the words simply flow over you. It’s worth the trouble; it’s divine once you get there.
The Waves is so close to my heart that every paragraph makes me thoroughly sad yet uncontrollably happy. But I don’t mind how forlorn it makes me. I don’t mind my face being flooded with tears. I don’t mind my mascara stinging and my soul aching, because whenever my eyes glance over those words I can feel how ravishing Virginia’s language is. She’s so close to sadness and death that she can’t tell the happiness of life any better.