I should probably preface this post by noting that Virginia Woolf is one of my Very Favorite Authors. I’m a huge fan. But 50 pages into Jacob’s Room, I was bored to tears. I even read a few reviews on Goodreads to help figure out if the story would ever start. The answer is no.
That’s the thing with Jacob’s Room: there’s really not much of a story. It’s generally about the life of a young man named Jacob, but it’s mostly told by people around him, and even then, he’s only on the fringes. It starts when he’s a child, his father has died, and his mother finds him irritating. And so on. There’s not really a plot.
What I did figure out from the Goodreads reviews (and our old friend Wikipedia) is that this is Woolf’s third novel, and it’s experimental. Not that that’s a bad thing: The Autumn of the Patriarch is most certainly experimental, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s fantastic. And wouldn’t you call The Sound and the Fury experimental, with its weirdo stream-of-consciousness-I-can-only-half-understand going on for the first quarter of the book? Experimental is interesting! Except when there’s so much experimenting that the story is totally forgotten. It’s kind of in the style of To The Lighthouse, which is fantastic, but minus the story. It’s nothing like Orlando, which I read fairly recently.
And that’s all I really have to say about Jacob’s Room. I didn’t like it because it was so boring. The language is especially beautiful, though, so if you’re willing to trade story for style, by all means, jump in. I’ll stick with all of the other Woolf novels I’ve read and loved – you know, the ones with plots.