Tuesday, 20 September 2016

To The Lighthouse

Hello, it's Heather! I've been busy updating the site's aesthetics (see the book blog page, it looks a little nicer now). I'm slightly obsessed with Virginia Woolf at the moment; I have three of her books downstairs on the window sill waiting for me to read them... so expect more soon.

Author: Virginia Woolf
Published: May 1927
Publisher: Hogarth Press
My rating (out of five): 

“She had known happiness, exquisite happiness, intense happiness, and it silvered the rough waves a little more brightly, as daylight faded, and the blue went out of the sea and it rolled in waves of pure lemon which curved and swelled and broke upon the beach and the ecstasy burst in her eyes and waves of pure delight raced over the floor or her mind and she felt, It is enough!”

I read an extract of Mrs Dalloway at a university open day and was compelled to read some of Virginia Woolf's work due to the lecturer’s pure adoration and love of her books. I decided to begin with To The Lighthouse, but am sure that I will read Mrs Dalloway imminently. This writing style is so remarkably different; its focus being not about the plot, not about dialogue, not even about reliability (debatably), but on everything that floats through the character’s head, every little silly thought. I found myself reading bits aloud, murmuring lines and feeling the bias, the loathing and the favouritism resound in each word. The stream of consciousness style can be a little tedious for those that feel impatient for something big to happen, but for anyone that just wants to appreciate the present, however meaningless it may seem, this is the book for you.
The novel investigates many matters that one may ponder when they zone out. For instance, is it right to raise a child’s hopes and teach them optimism or to blunder these dreams with the swift reminder of reality? On one hand, it may be kinder to get the truth out there before the child imagines and hopes and believes in intangible adventures, but on the other, it seems harmless to let a child anticipate for something even if the thing they look forward to may be postponed, provided it will eventually happen. Then there are the trivial things to consider – do they like me? What is your opinion on them? How does it change every second? These ever-present thoughts make the reader realise the complexity of the human mind, it’s constantly humming, little bees of thought darting to and thro: the blankest of moments in life seem to be coloured in with the most interesting brain activity.
Virginia Woolf’s writing seems effortless, like she’s become possessed and has put her pen to paper and - whoop - an entire book has emerged. None of the words struck me as odd or pretentious, but there wasn’t the usual blend of ‘the house was red brick, the grass an emerald green’, she uses words like ‘blandishments’ and ‘fecundity’. I like these words. I wish authors would use these words more instead of sustaining with the usual, safe list of simple words. Say ‘fecundity’ to yourself now, slowly, feel it, each sound. It’s just such a great word (it means healthy, powerful productivity or growth).
As far as characters go, I would have liked to have seen more of Charles. The reader gains some mixed expressions on the man; he tells Lily that women cannot paint or write (Woolf must have hated these kind of people) which made her adamant to paint, he annoys Mrs Ramsay at the start by unnecessarily dampening James’ spirits; he is smart yet annoying, craves attention and controversy. I would have also loved to see more of Prue and Cam. There is definitely a strong feminist argument present in this book, note how Mrs Ramsay dies (I’d say spoiler alert but the plot is hardly the main part of the book), Prue dies, Cam feels stupid and Minta has her heart broken. Lily stands out for these reasons. I adored how she didn’t feel the necessity to marry despite Mrs Ramsay trying to persuade her to and how she pursued her dreams against the will – perhaps especially because of the will – of Charles not to paint.
This is such a fantastic book. I wouldn’t class it as an easy read, it takes time and literally every other line needs to be highlighted (I did this on my kindle as I have a thing against highlighting in books). Anyone that is an avid reader or has an interest in people (how they work, why they do what they do, what some of them are thinking) or wants to study the art of English, please read it. Partly because I need more people to chat about Virginia Woolf with, partly because it’s just a beautiful masterpiece of a novel.

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