The Years Background

The Years Background

The Years is a short novel penned by Virginia Woolf that actually started out life as lecture given by Woolf to the National Society for Women's Service, in January 1931. Woolf was conscious that much of her work represented women from a particular echelon of society, mainly focusing on artists, writers and the Bloomsbury set. She wanted this lecture,and the subsequent essay that developed from it, to be more generalized in terms of the women that it represented, looking at women as an economic force with their own lives outside family and home, something that was not typically studied much in the thirties.

In 1932 Woolf had in her hands a finished manuscript that she entitled The Pargiters which was based upon her speech. She then decided to combine fiction and her essay, to write a novel about women and their education, and subsequent lives, which ultimately formed the framework for her finished work - a fictional novel that spanned the history of the well-heeled Pargiter family from the 1880s to the mid-1930s.

Each section of the book has its own title based on the year that it focuses upon, and Woolf uses a sort of weather report as a narrative conjunction between the chapters. The story takes place in London itself and in the home counties, two places that Woolf and her husband lived, and between which they divided their time. Woolf was happier in the city, feeling out of sorts and depressed in the countryside. This depression had a great deal to do with the fact that Woolf survived barely a decade more after the publication of this novel. Having suffered from depression for most of her life, Woolf was severely bipolar and was alternately suicidal - making her first suicide attempt in 1913 - and riding high on the euphoria of her marriage and the feeling of being loved, which never waned in her and never ceased to provide her with an emotional warmth and sense of wonder.

After she completed the manuscript for what would become her final novel, in 1941, Woolf became extremely depressed, as if that mental catharsis that was provided by the act of writing had been taken away from her. She became obsessed with death, and drowned herself by filling the pockets of her heavy winter coat with stones and walking into the River Ouse, just a few minutes' walk from her home.

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