Announcing A New Book Club! Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf!
Jacob’s Room – July 11, 2013
The year is 1920. The war – the Great War – the War to End All Wars – has been over for almost two years. The men have returned, back to their homes and families, picking up the threads from four long years away. Things have returned to normal but not really.
They’re a scrappier bunch than before the whole thing started. More demanding, less deferential. The Labour Party is taking centre stage as one of the country’s two major political parties. All men over the age of 21 years and women over 30 have the vote now – the voting population has gone from 7 million to 21 million voters. The working class is more visible than before, and less deferential; after all, they’re citizens now.
Everyone wants to work in the towns, at factory work which is hard and long but you’re your own man at the end of the day. The aristocracy is finding it hard to find and keep servants. No one wants to work “in service” anymore. But factory work isn’t as easy to find as it was during the war; with demobilization and the end of war manufacturing, unemployment is very high. And so is frustration. Prime Minister Lloyd George’s promises about turning the country into a ‘land fit for heroes’ are quickly dismissed as unrealistic, and socialism becomes truly popular with the public for the first time.
Two of the great pre-1910 bogeymen are gone: the Tsar of Russia and the Kaiser Wilhelm II are gone, respectively, thanks to revolution and revolt. Agitation in Ireland led to the Easter Rising in mid-war, and in fact independence is only a year away. The rest of the Empire is also making demands. Canada and Australia are using their efforts on the battlefields to justify greater national autonomy. All of this diminishes the Empire and Britain.
And of course, there are the cenotaphs. Everywhere there are cenotaphs.
Memorials to the dead, obelisks and statues, huge plaques shaped like gravestones. They’re in every city, town, village, with long lists of the hometown boys who went overseas and never came back. November 11 is a day of mourning now, a remembrance of the dead. The dead will always be there, and the cenotaphs will remain even into the 21st century, well-maintained with fresh flowers and mourners on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of every year.
The writer is Virginia Woolf. A successful author of two books, she is preparing to write her third, feeling more confident now in her skills and contemplating her approach. As she confides to her diary:
“Suppose one thing should open out of another…doesn’t that give the looseness and lightness I want; doesn’t that get closer and yet keep form and speed, and enclose everything, everything?…For I figure that the approach will be entirely different this time: no scaffolding; scarcely a brick to be seen…but with all the heart, all the passion…”
Jacob’s Room will be something new – a “biography of fragments”, as her later biographer Hermione Lee will put it. And it will be the first of Woolf’s modern works, setting the stage for her later Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and her masterpiece, To the Lighthouse (1927).
A Public Access versions can be found here.
If you wish to have the Kindle version, Amazon has a free version of Jacob’s Room for the Kindle available.
If, for some reason, you wish to have a hardcopy of the book, you can pick one up Here.
Here’s the tentative plan for Chapter Readings once everyone has their copy:
Chapters 1 to 5
Chapters 6 to 9
Chapters 10 to 13