• The Common Reader Volume 1

  • 26 Essays on Jane Austen, George Eliot, Conrad, Montaigne and Others
  • By: Virginia Woolf
  • Narrated by: Joan Walker
  • Length: 8 hrs and 41 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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The Common Reader Volume 1

By: Virginia Woolf
Narrated by: Joan Walker
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Publisher's Summary

This is Virginia Woolf’s first collection of essays, published in 1925. In them, she attempts to see literature from the point of view of the ‘common reader’ - someone whom she, with Dr Johnson, distinguished from the critic and the scholar. She read, and wrote, as an outsider: a woman set to school in her father’s library, denied the educational privileges of her male siblings - and with no fixed view of what constitutes ‘English literature’. What she produced is an eccentric and unofficial literary and social history from the 14th to the 20th centuries, with an excursion to ancient Greece thrown in. 

She investigates medieval England (The Paston Letters and Chaucer), tsarist Russia (The Russian Point of View), Elizabethan Playwrights, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Modern Fiction and the Modern Essay. When she published this book Woolf’s fame as a novelist was already established: now she was hailed as a brilliant interpretative critic. Here, she addresses ‘the common reader’ in the remarkable prose and with all the imagination and gaiety that are the stamps of her genius. 

©1925 Virginia Woolf Estate (P)2020 Ukemi Productions Ltd

What listeners say about The Common Reader Volume 1

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Appreciations with little to back them up

Before the days of real criticism, reviewers would often simply say that a book was good and gush about this or that. There were no concrete examples or biographical background or references to influences and other reviews. That's what I found in this so-called common reader. The title suggests that it was written for the unscholarly reader who just enjoys reading. I found the prose crabbed and convoluted and almost unreadable, so I'm not sure who this common reader is. Most of these essays are dated and not worth reading today. Her opinions are contrary to popular opinion, which is not necessarily bad except when there is an army of professors and intellectuals who are against you. I got tricked into reading this by the lectures of David Thorburn, whom is now on my avoid list. This woman obviously had a great mind -- I love 'A Room of One's Own' -- but she also was incredibly repressed and unable to overcome her mental problems. Why she remains in the Western canon at this point is beyond me.

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Wonderful Listen

This volume contains some of Woolf's most important and influential essays: "Modern Fiction", "Jane Austen", "George Eliot", "Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights." The narrator's voice suits Woolf's writing style down to a T, so it is great to see Woolf's non-fiction making its way into the audiobook domain.

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  • Fothergill
  • 04-30-20

Let this not be your first Virginia !

The voice, oh this awful voice, it sounds computer generated , as if she is computing rhythms, and deliberately leaving modulation out,
So very painful to hear momentum,slowly dying, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced , it is a machine !
If you want to hear perfection, ( sadly she is not available for this one) seek out Juliet Stevenson, she reads - as she always does -with intelligence, and wit, so much is lost in this, one could be convinced VW had none of these qualities, in this instance book is best!

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  • NICK
  • 10-18-21

A Soaring Intellect

And that’s not all. Even when she is writing about an obscure scribbler, poetaster or essayist, Virginia Woolf is always interesting, and one has to read on. That is to say, she writes with shrewd discrimination and in a congenial style: one always feels in safe hands. Then, of course, the major writers. If one was in any doubt why Jane Austen is without equal, we now know, and Virginia Woolf tells us, as ever, in the subtlest way. Women authors, of course, have pride of place: the Brontes, George Eliot, Mrs Gaskell; but also Conrad, Hardy… . This is not a book of literary criticism, but a volume for those who love the writing endeavour, done by writers who are passionate about their art. Some of them, eccentric perhaps, do not fit the “classic”canon as put up by academics but they are respected here, in the same way as the so-called “Common Reader”, it is very clear, is also respected. (Who else do writers write for, if not for people - my surmise - ). As for the present and the future of the novel (the major genre addressed in these essays), Virginia Woolf keeps her counsel whilst implying (she never condemns) that there is much to be desired in what publishers present us with; and we shall have to wait and see… . What’s new!