Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

To The Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf
Vintage, 1927, 2011

About The Book
This book revolves around the Ramsey family and their trip with friends to their holiday home in the Isle of Skye.

My Thoughts
The only other Virginia Woolf book that I've read is Orlando and that was when I was at Uni... and so long ago that all I remember is that I really enjoyed it. Or at least I enjoyed the premise of the book where the main character switched between the sexes. To The Lighthouse is the October book for the Friday night book group and I have to admit I am struggling with it.

I really don't know what this book is about. I think I've gleaned some information from what I've read... but that would be pure luck. My powers of procrastination have beaten this book and I still had 70 odd pages to go when book club started and it is only 198 pages. I felt a bit bad as the newest member of the group felt she had to finish the book, and she was the only one who did. The discussion was good nonetheless! Someone had read either her diaries or a Room of One's Own (I forget which) and was able to provide some biographical details and thoughts on To The Lighthouse, which was very helpful.

I think that talking about it helped me make sense of what was going on in the book. I would like to finish it to see if the rounding out that I think should happen actually does happen. I tried to read some the day after, but I could barely keep my eyes open while reading it and it put me in a sleepy mood for the rest of the day! 

What the book seems to be about is The Ramsey family. At first it all revolves around the beautiful Mrs Ramsey, but part two is about an intervening time between the two visits to the holiday house, during which time some of the characters have died and the first world war has happened. This is where I am up to and time is passing very slowly indeed.

This book is a hard read, which is not the writer's fault. The fault is with me, the reader. As with our modern society I don't want to have to work at my entertainment/escape and so would prefer an easy read. That being said, after the discussion I have a renewed regard for the book... even if when I get back to it I still don't really know what is going on. I'm not satisfied with knowing broadly what is happening... but that is all the book is allowing me. I spoke to a colleague today who said she really enjoyed the book and being transported back to the early 1900s. This just reinforces that the fault is with me... not the book.

I guess what really stands out to me so far is the relationship between Mr and Mrs Ramsey and the fact that there is so much for them to say to each other but there is the reluctance and hesitation in actually doing so. The  most poignant scene for me is one where they are in the bedroom and Mrs Ramsey knows that Mr Ramsey wants her to say she loves him, but for whatever reason she doesn't. This scene I actually understood and made me feel a bit sad for them.

"And what then? For she felt that he was still looking at her, but his look had changed. He wanted something - wanted the thing she always found it so difficult to give him; wanted her to tell him that she loved him. And that, no, she could not do. He found talking so much easier than she did. He could say things - she never could. So naturally it was always he that said the things, and then for some reason he would mind this suddenly, and reproach her. A heartless woman he called her; she never told him that she loved him. But it was no so - it was not so. It was only that she could never say what she felt." p 114

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