As a result, I won’t be able to plunge into the Woolf in Winter discussion of the novel led by Clare on Kiss a Cloud. But I can stick my toe in the water. So here it goes.
During the past few days, I worked my way through the early years of Woolf’s six characters: Jinny, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Bernard and Louis.
When I left them last night, all six were on their way home from boarding school for the summer holiday. Each was looking forward to something different. Susan was longing to be back in the country. Jinny was picturing herself as an independent young woman. Louis fancied himself a poet. And so on.
What struck me so far was how beautifully and accurately Woolf captured the minds and moods of children on their way to being grown-ups. The innocence, the complications, the wretched insecurities, the brave dreams, the pleasures and the pains of childhood can all be found in Woolf’s poetic words.
In the novel, Woolf outlines each character. Then she fills in the details in the same way that the pointillist painting provided by Kiss a Cloud does.
From a distance, the dots in a pointillist painting may seem alike. But up close, each one is different. In a similar way, young children may seem alike from a distance. But up close, each one is unique.
Woolf looks at her six children up close. She bends her knees to look at the world from their perspective. She tells their six stories from the shifting vantage points of children on their way to adulthood. She understands the way they think and feel.
What I take away from these first few chapters of The Waves is that despite her own childlessness, Woolf got kids in a way that few adults do. That’s just one more thing to like about her.