‘Kew Gardens’ by Virginia Woolf

…one couple after another with much the same irregular and aimless movement passed the flower-bed…

This is a very simple, very short story set in Kew Gardens. As a snail makes his steady way around a flowerbed, a number of groups pass by and we are given a brief snapshot of their conversations. This is not an easy sell, but it works beautifully as an introduction to modernism and provides a valuable opportunity for younger readers to think about the impact (and practicalities of) narrative structures and devices.

Quite a lot of hand-holding is required, admittedly, but once it clicks it really clicks.

Why does the author keep coming back to the snail and the colourful shadows made by the flowers? Would this story make sense if the descriptions of the snail were removed? Can you see any links between Kew Gardens and any other texts you have read? What do you notice about the dialogue? In what ways is it similar to dialogue you are used to reading? In what ways is it different?

First published 1919, collected in Monday or Tuesday, Hogarth Press, 1921

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