Introduction and Notes by Deborah Parsons, University of Birmingham.
‘I am writing to a rhythm and not to a plot’, Virginia Woolf stated of her eighth novel, The Waves. Widely regarded as one of her greatest and most original works, it conveys the rhythms of life in synchrony with the cycle of nature and the passage of time. Six children – Bernard, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Jinny and Louis – meet in a garden close to the sea, their voices sounding over the constant echo of the waves that roll back and forth from the shore.
The subsequent continuity of these six main characters, as they develop from childhood to maturity and follow different passions and ambitions, is interspersed with interludes from the timeless and unifying chorus of nature. In pure stream-of-consciousness style, Woolf presents a cross-section of multiple yet parallel lives, each marked by the disintegrating force of a mutual tragedy.
The Waves is her searching exploration of individual and collective identity, and the observations and emotions of life, from the simplicity and surging optimism of youth to the vacancy and despair of middle-age.