Monday, 3 September 2012

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (4.5/5)

The back says: The most autobiographical of Virginia Woolf's work, "To the Lighthouse" is based on her own childhood experiences, and while it touches on childhood and children's perceptions and desires, it also explores adult relationships, marriage and the changing class structure of its time.

I say: Oh, how utterly in love I am with Woolf’s way of writing; her languid prose sets the mood perfectly, while her long and undulating sentences make me yearn to dig myself deeper into her world and just let her similes wash over me. It’s all so very poetic and revealing; and I am in utter awe of her talent.

To the Lighthouse was voted by The Millions as one of the 10 most difficult books last month and I have to agree. It would be ludicrous for me to even pretend that I understood all the nuances of the prose, characters, and the imagery – but for me, this is merely the icing on the cake – I am already looking forward to re-reading this magic.

It’s hard to say exactly what the novel is about, since we initially follow the Ramsay’s and their friends during a day in their cottage; and a few years later as some of them return for different reasons. The first part of the novel was my favourite; the way that we weave in between and inside of the characters consciousness with such ease, feeling emotions as they appear only to be catapulted into the scenery outside, wondering how all these people are able to exist in the same physical space without more friction.

One of my favourite parts was the way Mrs Ramsay was able to read her husband’s thoughts on his face and in her own way try to calm him, while the children were preparing themselves for an impending outburst. The way that Woolf describes that family dynamic; the little signs that they all could read on each other’s faces reminded me of dinners we used to have when I was younger.

The second and third parts of the novel were brilliant in their own way, but not so much as a continuation of the first. I’m not sure why, but there was a certain disappointment at the hasty, almost nonchalant, way we were handed some of the updates that I didn’t particularly care for.

And yet the end was magnificent.

A part of me wants to just start re-reading this right now, but I will have to pace myself and read some of Woolf’s other work in the meantime.

*This is my twenty-sixth entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long).


  1. I've read one book by Woolf and loved it. You made this one sound magical though. I definitely plan on reading more of her books.

    1. You read Mrs Dalloway, if I'm not mistaken, which also was my first Woolf, and now I'm addicted. I just love the way she writes, but I have to make sure I have time to savour her language and it takes me a bit longer to read - but that's fine since I never want to leave the world she creates.