Time is set free in Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, scenes come together and dissolve with little unity beyond the absence of the book’s central character, Jacob Flanders. The narrative makes its own time, almost free of plot, but Woolf feels likes she is a writer enjoying herself, a fact she confirms in her diaries, at least during the book’s conception.
Though character is one of Woolf’s central concerns in Jacob’s Room, she also conveys such a strong sense of place; the book is suffused with her memories of summer’s spent on the Cornish coast. With some wit, Woolf also questions our modern fascination with ancient Greece, and continues from the diaries and Mrs. Dalloway the conflation of ancient Greece and the twin themes of love and death which underpin Jacob’s Room.
I very much like Jonathan Gibb’s speculation that Jacob’s Room is ‘an essay’, and also Emily’s intoxication with Woolf’s language. Does it quite hang together as a novel, whatever that is? I’m not sure, and will certainly reread with that question in mind, but the language is wondrous and on that note alone Jacob’s Room shares a space in time with its contemporaries Ulysses and The Waste Land.