The blurb on the back of Jacob's Room describes it this way:
"Poetic and nearly plotless, this groundbreaking novel focuses on a flow of random impressions through the minds of its characters. Jacob's Room was Virginia Woolf's first stream-of-consciousness novel--nonlinear and experimental, with an ending that is among the most moving in all of English literature."Which makes this novel interesting to read, but hard to summarize. The story swirls and eddies around Jacob Flanders, beginning when he's a child collecting butterflies and playing at the seashore with his brothers, to his years at Cambridge arguing Greek philosophy with his friends, to when he's living on his own, presumably working, and falling in love in London, to his travels in Greece when he's just twenty-six. But because of the way this story is told, Jacob remains an elusive, almost ethereal character. We know of him, but we never really get to know him. What I like most about this novel is Woolf's way with words; her writing is lyrical and filled with poetic imagery. I admire how she was always pushing herself as a writer to choose just the right words and to find a new narrative style. For me, Jacob's Room is not as good a Mrs. Dalloway, but it's still a novel worth reading.
But I think I'll let Virginia's words speak for themselves. Here are a few poetic passages from this innovative book:
The waves showed that uneasiness, like something alive, restive, expecting the whip, of waves before a storm ... The wind blew straight dashes of rain across the window, which flashed silver as they passed through the light. A single leaf tapped hurriedly, persistently, upon the glass. There was a hurricane at sea.
"I like Jacob Flanders," wrote Clara Durrant in her diary. "He's so unworldly. He gives himself no airs and one can say what one likes to him, though he's frightening because..." But then, this is only a young woman's language, one, too, who loves, or refrains from loving. She wished the moment to continue forever precisely as it was that July morning. And moments don't.
Jacob went to the window and stood with his hands in his pockets. There he saw three Greeks in kilts; the masts of ships; idle or busy people of the lower classes strolling or stepping out briskly....Their lack of concern for him was not the cause of his gloom; but some profound conviction--it was not that he himself happened to be lonely, but that all people are.