september 2021

29sep6:00 pm12:00 pmThe Years by Virginia Woolf Five-day study in St Ives *NEW DATES*STUDY FULL Immersive Study of Woolf's family saga in Cornwall6:00 pm - 12:00 pm St Ives, CornwallType Of Study:Literature,TravelFrequency:One Off EventDuration:Five days


Event Details

“Millions of things came back to her. Atoms danced apart and massed themselves. But how did they compose what people called a life? She clenched her hands and felt the hard little coins she was holding. Perhaps there’s ‘I’ at the middle of it, she thought; a knot; a centre; and again she saw herself sitting at her table drawing on the blotting paper, digging little holes from which spokes radiated. Out and out they went; thing followed thing, scene obliterated scene.”

–Virginia Woolf, The Years


Each study in St Ives is magical. The light, the smell and sound of the sea gilds the intensive study with a unique sense of stepping into another world. This study of The Years, the last novel published by Virginia Woolf while she was still alive, expands our time in Cornwall to five days as requested by past participants. We will meet Wednesday evening for our first exploration with six more meetings spread over the coming days to allow time for enjoyment of the natural and cultural gems offered in this beautiful place. This will be the Salon’s first study of The Years; this study will have the exploratory energy that a first Salon study offers.

IN LIGHT OF THE CURRENT PANDEMIC, the dates for this study are shifted: Sept.29 toOctober 3rd 2021 …there are three spaces available.


The Years is described as a family saga–and is often considered more accessible than other works by Woolf. With the experience of many studies of To The Lighthouse, Between the Acts, The Waves and Mrs Dalloway, I have come to relish the subtle profundity beneath the language experimentation and interior explorations that Woolf offers. The Years engages history– the personal history of a family, the mantel of history of a people, the sense of a denigrated future in the shadow of historical myths and mistakes–and considers how various characters negotiate this troubled inheritance. Woolf moves deftly between the individual and the larger cultural landscapes–illuminating how one person can exist in their vulnerable selfhood amidst the waves of the world around them.


To understand this book, you will want to read with a wide awake mind and then re-read once you have played on the surface of plot and character. Notice how the descriptions along the edges—the fragments, the other stories invoked, the changing weather passages—all comment on and expand the central narrative. We will also consider essays from her work, The Pargiters — the theoretical framework that Woolf wrote alongside The Years but then excluded from the text. This has become available in Mitchell Leaska’s edition: “The Pargiters is interesting in its own right for the insight it offers into Woolf’s politics, which she expresses more bluntly in the novel-essay than she ever had before.” (R. Higney, Modernism Lab)



  • Five-day Meeting in St Ives — approximately 14 hours of study
  • Meeting St Ives Cornwall; facilitated by Salon Director Toby Brothers
  • Cost £325 includes notes and critical resources (transport and housing not included)
  • RECOMMENDED EDITION: The Years by Virginia Woolf (Vintage Classics Woolf Series) Paperback – 6 Oct 2016 ISBN-10: 1784872237
  • If possible, please also purchase The Pargiters–  this book is difficult to find and tends to be pricey– if you can not find an affordable edition, please contact us— I have a few editions for purchase or loan.

To register for the Salon study, please use the Paypal button below to pay £325: (Please pay for the  room directly to No4St Ives once your registration has been confirmed):


‘A brilliant fantasia of all Time’s problems, age and youth, change and permanence, truth and illusion’ The Times Literary Supplement

The Years is the story of the Pargiter family – their intimacies and estrangements, anxieties and triumphs – mapped out against the bustling rhythms of London’s streets during the first decades of the twentieth century, as their Victorian upbringing gives way to a new world, where the rules of etiquette have shifted from the drawing room to the air-raid shelter. Virginia Woolf’s penultimate novel is a celebration of the resilience of the individual amid time, change, life, death and renewal.


Virginia Woolf:  “If life has a base that it stands upon, if it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills – then my bowl without doubt stands upon this memory.  It is of lying in bed, half-asleep, haf awake, in bed in the nursery at St Ives.  It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one two, behind a yellow blind […}.  If I were a painter I should paint these impressions in pale yellow, silver, and green.  There was the pale yellow blind; the green sea; and the silver of the passion flowers.”

“Here is the past and all its inhabitants miraculously sealed as in a magic tank.”

“The past only comes back when the present runs so smoothly that it is like the sliding surace of a deep river.  Then one sees through the surface to the depths.  The past sometimes presses so close that you can feel nothing else.”

—“Sketch of the Past,” begun in June 1939.


St IVES:  Virginia Woolf spent much of her childhood in St. Ives.  The London Literary Salon invites you to join us in St Ives to explore this lovely coastal town and have it serve as a prism through which we will explore Woolf’s perspectives on landscape, domesticity, historical inheritance and identity in her novel The Years. We have already completed four magical weekends with Woolf’s writings in the environment that inspired it– this is an incredible experience!

You will have the opportunity to  visit the iconic Tate St Ives gallery overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, built between 1988 and 1993 on the site of an old gasworks, and there will be an optional boat trip to Godrevy Lighthouse.

We may also look at Talland House, now privately owned, her childhood summer home.  For several months of the year the elegant house overlooking St Ives Bay would be the Stephens’ family home until 1895 when Virginia’s mother Julia Stephen died.  Although the complete family never returned to St Ives following their mother’s death, her children travellled back in 1905 following the death of their father in 1904.

Accommodation:  We are working with No4 St Ives which is just steps from Talland House and has an elevated position overloooking St Ives Bay.  It is a 5 minute walk from the beach and St Ives Town Centre.

Approximate cost: 

 Rooms at No4 St Ives range from £110-£140 per night– if the room is shared, the cost is halved; breakfast included. Some of us plan to stay Sunday night as well to be able to enjoy an extra day in this beautiful site. The entire cost is to be paid upfront. If for some reason you are unable to attend, we will work to find someone to replace you & reimburse you for the room but can not guarantee that is possible. The Salon cost may be applied to a later study. 

Train cost is approx.  £70  each way(cheaper if bought earlier) 

Salon cost is  £325: We will meet around 14 hours over the five days. The first meeting starts at 5:45 Wednesday evening; the last meeting is scheduled for 9:30-11:30 Sunday morning. On previous trips, many have stayed in St Ives through Sunday evening to have time for further exploration and reflection. Please discuss this option with Sue and Mike from No4 St Ives if you are interested. 

We will enjoy dinner out on Wednesday and Friday…other costs will include the optional boat trip & visit to the St Ives gallery. 

Getting there:  The train from London takes just over five hours, with one change at St Erth for the branch line to St Ives.

This event and other in-depth explorations of  Virginia Woolf and her works can be found on the website of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain


Part of the challenge when reading Woolf is to understand it is not the action that matters but the impression of thoughts; it is by attending to the pattern and signification of thoughts and impressions that we will uncover meaning, innovation. As one of the primary modernist writers, Woolf plays with language; testing its ability to truly reflect human experience by recording the life of the mind not just action. Her narrative form reflects one of the characteristics of Modernist writing in its shifting centre of narrative perspective reflecting a questioning of ultimate and moral authority that characterized the time with the dissolution of Imperialism and absolute values.


Writing from the edge of the violent shift from Victorian to Modernist era, the loss of an old world in the violent destruction of war and massive social change, Woolf’s ambivalence is demonstrated in her work. She struggles against the boundaries and structures of the Victorian era while holding a great longing and nostalgia for the noble traditions of the time.


If you have any questions about this study, please contact us.