The Voyage Out

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What to expect

First published in 1915, The Voyage Out marked the literary debut of one of the great pioneers of the modern novel, Virginia Woolf.

Woolf’s witty and lyrical debut follows a group of lively, eccentric British tourists embarking on a sea voyage from London to South America. For Rachel Vinrace, a shy, motherless young lady traveling under the wing of her aunt Helen, this first voyage out into the world becomes a mythic rite of passage into emotional and intellectual maturity.

As the narrative shifts point of view among the mismatched jumble of passengers, Woolf takes the opportunity to satirize Edwardian life while sketching the evolution of her heroine’s understanding.

When the ship finally arrives at the village Santa Marina on the South American coast, Rachel is introduced to a group of English expatriates. Among them is the sensitive young Terence Hewet, an aspiring writer with whom she falls into a doomed romance.

Critics Review

  • “A strange, tragic, inspired book whose scene is a South Americana not found on any map and reached by a boat which would not float on any sea, an America whose spiritual boundaries touch Xanadu and Atlantis.”

    E. M. Forster
  • “Done with something startling like genius…in its humor and its sense of irony, the occasional poignancy of its emotions, its profound originality.”

    Observer (London)
  • “For all its tragic interest, The Voyage Out is not low-keyed; it even has a slight buoyancy of tone, as if clear perception itself brought a continual zest to its writer. Woolf has the diversity of power which makes the great writer of narrative.”

    New Republic
  • “A first glimpse into the themes and techniques that would preoccupy her entire career…Even on this wide canvas Woolf is most interested in portraying the sensitive interior life of her characters.”

    Barnes & Noble, Daybook review
  • “No later novel of Woolf’s will capture so brilliantly the excitement of youth.”

    Phyllis Rose, biographer and literary critic
  • The Voyage Out…is at once the product of Woolf’s deep knowledge and perceptive interpretation of the literary and intellectual tradition she inherited and also a challenging and idiosyncratic response to modern life and problems.”

    Jane Wheare, editor and biographer

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