Author(s): Virginia Woolf
Set on the English coast against the vivid backdrop of the sea, The Waves introduces six characters who are grappling with the death of a beloved friend, Percival. The characters are almost imperceptibly revealed through the kaleidoscopic accumulation of their reflections on themselves and each other. Regarded by many as Virginia Woolf's masterpiece, The Waves was partially written in order to exorcise her private ghosts as the central, yet absent, character of Percival represents her brother Thoby, who died in 1906. It is a poetic dreamscape, visual, experimental and thrilling.
'Virginia Woolf wanted to write about the vast unknown uncertain continent that is the world and us in it' Jeanette Winterson, from her introduction to The Waves
Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882, the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen, first editor of The Dictionary of National Biography. After his death in 1904 Virginia and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, moved to Bloomsbury and became the centre of 'The Bloomsbury Group'. This informal collective of artists and writers which included Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture. In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a writer and social reformer. Three years later, her first novel The Voyage Out was published, followed by Night and Day (1919) and Jacob's Room (1922). These first novels show the development of Virginia Woolf's distinctive and innovative narrative style. It was during this time that she and Leonard Woolf founded The Hogarth Press with the publication of the co-authored Two Stories in 1917, hand-printed in the dining room of their house in Surrey. Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to the poetic and highly experimental novel The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography, including the playfully subversive Orlando (1928) and A Room of One's Own (1929) a passionate feminist essay. This intense creative productivity was often matched by periods of mental illness, from which she had suffered since her mother's death in 1895. On 28 March 1941, a few months before the publication of her final novel, Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf committed suicide.