Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Reviewed by Connie

Published: 1927

It's about: To the Lighthouse centers around the Ramsay family as they visit their beach home in Scotland along with their friends and acquaintances in 1910-1920. Little happens, but there is much philosophical reflection and plenty of introspection.

I thought: Virginia Woolf is a literary goddess. Who else can capture the intricacies and subtleties and idiosyncrasies of the mind with such accuracy and truth? To the Lighthouse is yet another powerful example that despite (or is it because of?) her self-proclaimed "madness," Woolf understands the psychology of thought better than any other author to date.

Reading To the Lighthouse feels like reading your own mind. This book is a perfect example of my definition of "literature" -- psychological insight over plot. Little happens in this book, or in any of Woolf's books I have yet encountered, and yet its pages are remarkably profound.

I read this book much more slowly than I read other books, because I savored every last word. Should you decide to read this, I highly recommend doing so when you are at your leisure, and when you have a fully loaded pen ready to underline the crap out of that book.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf

Reading Recommendations: If you are not a fan of stream of consciousness, or you're looking for an exciting, fast read, this is not for you. If you are looking for something beautiful and quiet and brilliant, then by all means, pick this book up.

Warnings: none

Favorite excerpts:
"How then did it work out, all this? How did one judge people, think of them? How did one add up this and that and conclude that it was liking one felt, or disliking?"

"And, what was even more exciting, she felt, too, as she saw Mr. Ramsay bearing down and retreating, and Mrs. Ramsay sitting with James in the window and the cloud moving and the tree bending, how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach."

"A sort of transaction went on between them, in which she was on one side, and life was on another, and she was always trying to get the better of it, as it was of her; and sometimes they parleyed (when she sat alone); there were, she remembered, great reconciliation scenes; but for the most part, oddly enough, she must admit that she felt this thing that she called life terrible, hostile, and quick to pounce on you if you gave it a chance."

"No, she thought...children never forget. For this reason, it was so important what one said, and what one did, and it was a relief when they went to bed."

What I'm reading next: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy