Saturday, November 3, 2007

To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

Title: To the Lighthouse
Author: Virginia Woolf
Country: British
Year: 1927
Rating: A-
Pages: 310

First sentence:
"Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow," said Mrs. Ramsey.

Short summary:
This novel takes place in three parts taking place at the summer home of an English family, the Ramseys, in the Hebrides. The first part takes place over one afternoon and evening; the second spans ten years in which the home is left unoccupied; and the third part is a morning after the ten years in which some of the original characters return to the Ramsey's summer home.

Is this for a challenge? I decided to substitute this novel for Orlando by Virginia Woolf in the TBR challenge. Both have been on my bookshelf for a very long time. I also read it for the Seconds challenge.

What I thought: Virginia Woolf is not an easy read. But she is a delight. To the Lighthouse is written in a similar stream-of-consciousness style as Mrs Dalloway (reviewed here). However, Mrs Dalloway is mostly all about Clarissa: her relation to others, and others' (servants, family, friends) in relation to her. To the Lighthouse is more a story of the interrelationships amongst a group of people, and delves into the psychology of imagination and emotion from a variety of perspectives (albeit, some of the characters are not very interesting). It is not a novel to be read for its plot. The main focus of the story is on the inner workings of the people we meet. The third section of the novel seems to drift about, and I am left wondering if this is an unintentional weakness, or a hidden purpose that shows how things can fall apart.

It may help to have a broader knowledge of Virginia Woolf's work and career, to begin to capture and understand the larger artistic aims of this novel. As I discovered with Mrs Dalloway, Woolf's novels are best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. It is another book that I hope to come back to again someday.

No, she said, she did not want a pear. Indeed she had been keeping guard over the dish of fruit (without realizing it) jealously, hoping that nobody would touch it. Her eyes had been going in and out among the curves and shadows of the fruit, among the rich purples of the lowland grapes, then over the horny ridge of the shell, putting a yellow against a purple, a curved shape against a round shape, without knowing why she did it, or why, every time she did it, she felt more and more serene; until, oh, what a pity that they should do it--a hand reached out, took a pear, and spoilt the whole thing. (p.163)


Stephanie said...

I have never read any Virginia Wolfe. One of these days, I need to rectify that!!

Nice review!

Nyssaneala said...

stephanie - I only started reading Virginia Woolf novels earlier this year (I have read some of her essays, her non-fic is also great). It's never too late!

Jeane said...

That passage you quoted about the pears was lovely; I will certainly have to read Wolfe.

Dewey said...

I have several of Woolf's books on TBR Mountain for rereads. The only one I've read recently enough to really feel familiar with it is Mrs Dalloway.

That passage is such a gorgeous portrayal of someone who is extremely visually observant in ways most people aren't. Is that why you picked it? Do you notice the beauty in those sort of small details yourself?

Nyssaneala said...

jeane - Thanks, the imagery in that quote really struck me as exquisite.

dewey - I wish! Unfortunately my powers of artistic observation are a bit lacking. That's probably why I like the passage so much, I wish I could notice things like that. :)

Eva said...

I'm a big fan of Woolf, but I haven't read this one yet. Next on the list. :) I loved Orlando, as well as The Waves. I enjoyed Mrs. Dalloway as well, but not as much. Earlier this year, I read Hermione Lee's bio of Woolf, and it was a delight. I think it took me about three months to read, because I wanted to make sure I spread it out as long as possible!

Nyssaneala said...

eva - I haven't read Orlando or the Waves, so I'm not sure how them compare. I did like Mrs Dalloway a little bit better, it's a book I still ponder on occasion.

I would really like to read Lee's biography of Woolf, I'm glad to here you really enjoyed it!

iliana said...

I loved Mrs. Dalloway but for some reason I feel very hesitant to read another Woolf. I think it's because I know it won't be an "easy" read. Maybe I should add her to my list of books for the Living Dangerously Challenge. If I do, I may add this title.

Literary Feline said...

I've heard quite a bit about this book in recent months and would definitely like to read it. Thank you for your great review!

Nyssaneala said...

iliana - I think Woolf would be a great choice for the Living Dangerously challenge! I'll be participating in that one too, I just haven't posted about it yet.

wendy - I think it would make a great discussion book, but it doesn't quite fit with any of the online book groups I am active in.

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