Such a fascinating choice, to shift the narration from humans to the mostly nonhuman. After the first shock--Mrs. R’s death--the other parentheticals ceased to surprise me. A song I never liked came to mind, with its line “all we are is dust in the wind.” And as a former maid I was more than impressed with the housekeeping of the two old women who readied the house for the next visitors after all that time.

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Grateful for Mona's lovely outlining of the time and out-of-time of Time Passes (which felt much longer this time as I reread it, as if I were awash in time). The narrative voice is so strikingly different than the two other sections, so much of it dis-embodied even as the particulars of what is recounted are so beautifully detailed. I am wondering (without any specific evidence except reading Woolf) if her experience of "voices" during some of her periods of illness, (registered with such horror in Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway) is somehow here put to work in a way that enables, rather than undermines, the creative process. It would be consoling to think so.

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I've read this book several times, but I never fail to gasp at Mrs. Ramsay's death.

I'm reading an annotated edition which has the following quote from Woolf's working manuscript about Time Passes:

[Tie?] Ten Chapters

Now the question of the ten years.


The Seasons.

The Skull

The gradual dissolution of everything

This is to be contrasted with the permanence of--what?

Sun, moon & stars.

Hopeless gulfs of misery.


The War.

Change. Oblivion. Human vitality. Old woman

Cleaning up. The bobbed up, valorous, as of a principle

of human life projected

We are handed on by our children?

Shawls & shooting caps. A green handled brush.

The devouringness of nature.

But all the time, this passes, accumulates.


The welter of winds & waves

What then is the medium through wh. we regard human beings?

Tears. [di?]

[Sleep th] Slept through life.

This section also reminds me of this poem: https://allpoetry.com/poem/8498359-Mushrooms-by-Sylvia-Plath

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May 10·edited May 10

She dies! Here! In the middle of the book! So it seems the book is not about Mrs. Ramsey. It's not her story (any more). I wasn't completely shocked that she died. Only shocked that she died here, at the midpoint. And then Prue. And then Andrew. Time passes--no kidding! This chapter was perfect. Time passed exactly as time passes. Hard to capture the way the days go by. Darkness comes; things fall apart; memories fade. What was once of dire import is gone. When she died, i wanted to know--how? where? Who found her? But by the end of the chapter, with time moving on, the house falling apart and then put back together again, i was okay with not knowing.

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Thanks, Ms Simpson for your outline. VW is a challenge for those of us used to simpler fare. It also, at least for me, requires a certain amount of life experience- I can't imagine the twenty-year-old me having gotten much out of reading this book. Once one slows down and accepts the section on its terms, Times Passes works very much as did the Interludes in Peter Grimes. Entropy's inexorable effect on the Ramsay's world is hauntingly rendered.

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“Time Passes“, indeed. Beautiful, almost poetic. But Virginia Woolf turns on a dime and my head is spinning. First, she tells us, in passing, that Mrs. Ramsay dies, and then, out of the blue, she tells us that Prue has died. Both deaths came after what appeared to be happy times in the lives of the now deceased. We shortly learn that Andrew Ramsay has become a war casualty.

She also tells us that “the house“ is empty and I’m thinking that the house is being sold. But then Mrs. McNab shows up and it feels as if she is getting ready to open the house for the season. And then more sadness, the house is empty, no one‘s there and no one’s coming. It’s been abandoned. And then they’re back, at least some of them.

Heavily invested in so many of the characters as well as the rhythm of their lives and the house. Holding my breath for Part III.

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Got a late start but I'm caught up - on the reading and all of your spectacular comments and links. A huge thank you to all of you! From today's reading, I choose this line to parse: "the spring with her bees humming and gnats dancing threw her cloak about her, veiled her eyes, averted her head, and among passing shadows and lights of small rain seemed to have taken upon her a knowledge of the sorrows of mankind." Time moves forward, even in the face of loss. But the Ramsay family - all of us - will take upon ourselves the sorrow and emerge into the floating river of time. This book is truly stunning.

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I don't have much to add to Mona's excellent summary. The omniscient POV was an abrupt change, and who would have thought that fragile and much older Mr. Ramsay would outlive his wife and at least two of his children. Mrs. Ramsay's passing was a shocker. Looking forward to returning to the beach house with the much changed Ramsays and friends. The entirety of Part II is lyrical and sad; what an excellent transition. The theme of entropy, inevitable constant change and degradation of everything again emerges. I loved the ironic simile of old toothless Mrs. McNab moving about the deserted and deteriorating house while housekeeping being like "a tropical fish oaring its way through sun laced waters."

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I’ve read this many times, and I’m always struck by the way notice of Andrew’s death recognizes the reality of trench warfare... maybe twenty died, maybe thirty. They shall not grow old.

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Over half the book to get through a day and now in "Time Passes," the pace of the novel rapidly accelerates, and ten years elapse over the course of about twenty pages. Almost nothing of the Ramsays remains. Three family members, including Mrs. Ramsay, die unexpectedly, and the house is now frequented by a character who had been completely absent from the first section of the novel. And the lighthouse is still there. Will we all did in parentheses?

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From Ch. 2 "a downpouring of immense darkness began" - reminds me of Genesis, the account of creation, as if VW having created a world, now depicts its (almost) destruction.

I can only think the parentheses about people dying and people talking about it, are to emphasize the comparative insignificance of human life as Time and the seasons with all the weather take over the narrative, come to the fore.

I do love the word "ghostlily" - I would have written it "ghostily" which is so much not the same --

I am curious about the word "penitence" in Ch 3 - a sense of humans having brought something on themselves (is this foreshadowing of the war? or maybe foreshadowing is not the right word, as there has been all along something about VW's narrative technique that in a sense wants to get ahead of itself and then double-back, like a painter going over the same area to build up layers of density -

Gradually, amidst all the decay, something is allowed to "remain." "Some incorrigible hope."

Have been musing the minds-like-pools analogy in Ch. 6. Minds/ mirrors/pools/self-reflections - what happens when we destroy the mirror into which we once looked to find our own image, intact, rational, safe - the war again? It is both far away and has infiltrated everything, the way we are able to see and feel ourselves and the world.

Ch 9 The finest of balances is reached at last - "one feather" could have sent the house down to verified ruins - VW tips it the other way - she brings it all back not just in memory but narratively she makes Lily and the others show up to the house again.

How I would love to go through the drawers and closets of the house before anyone comes! That grey cloak of Mrs. R's - don't you want to finger it too?

Wow. My most sincere form of praise this morning. Or perhaps, damn!

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This section, TIME PASSES, reminds me, oddly, of a wonderful novel by Jon McGregor called RESERVOIR 13. The Guardian refers to it as "a chilling meditation on time, and loss through change." Events happen, big and small; time passes; life goes on; events happen, big and small; time passes; life goes on ... I recommend it highly!

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Quite possibly the most beautiful section of the book; a novella tucked between parts I & III, the forces of nature and the house itself take over. The writing here is so gorgeous. The downpouring of immense darkness, the nosing, rubbing, snuffling, nibbling airs, the sighs and shadows and silences. Then slowly reawakening: the tireless cleaning women Mrs McNab and Mrs Bast taking a tea break in the nursery, "they'd find it changed," and Lily Briscoe arriving, laying her head down to the sound of the sea, yet waking at dawn clutching the bedclothes as if clutching at a cliff edge. Awake.

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Ch. 6: "Did Nature supplement what man advanced? Did she complete what he began? With equal complacence she saw his misery, condoned his meanness, and acquiesced in his torture."

This statement also seems to speak, in a grandiose sense, to the repeated question in the novel: but what does it mean? And of course, here is Carmichael's depth finally reaching the larger world, or is it the world finally realizing it needs him: "The war, people said, had revived their interest in poetry."

Wondering if people have listened to Max Richter's "Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works"? It's created in response to other novels (Orlando and Mrs. Dalloway) but the severity of it speaks to these chapters--"The War Comes," "Entropy," etc.


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I also really like Mona’s opening statement: "This was Woolf’s plan: she conceived of the novel in three parts late summer 1925 “with a sense of waiting, of expectation: the child waiting to go to the Lighthouse, the woman awaiting the couple.” She planned it in summer, then became ill and resumed work on it in January 1926. Woolf calls Time Passes “an interesting experiment.”

Is this drawn from the Writer’s Diary? Just curious because I like the notion of all of it. Thanks!

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I loved this part. The characters with their concerns about fame and success have become parenthetical--even their deaths. The protagonist is time, with wind and weather as secondary characters.

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