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Reading Notes: To the Lighthouse

The dreary and wet weather truly taps into the mood of reading Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. The waves of storms that lash California, with rain pouring down to the roofs with such monstrous intensity, is curiously in sync with the rhythm that moves as waves of the sea move, as the novel takes place on an island.

No, she said, she did not want a pear. Indeed she had been keeping guard over the dish of fruit (without realising 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 graves, then over the horny ridge of the shell, putting a yellow against 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. In sympathy she looked at Rose. She looked at Rose sitting between Jasper and Prue. How odd that one’s child should do that! [108]

The focus of the entire novel is interior—character’s interior, nothing detached, and is very subjective. I find the writing of this book (so far), in comparison to, say, Mrs. Dalloway, much more accessible and less dense, despite its stream of conscious style all the same. The bowl of fruit represents this little enclave of happiness that Mrs. Ramsay has felt, as her dinner party has triumphed.

I’m reading To the Lighthouse as an effort to be in spirit the Woolf in Winter event hosted by What We Have Heare is a Failure to Communicate, which is currently reading Mrs. Dalloway.

8 Responses

  1. Eek. This is one I actually struggled with. I do find Woolf’s writing to be absolutely brilliant but that which I can tolerate less than I expected. I find her quite heavy handed and you have to be in the right mood for. I want to revisit this in the future.

  2. Matt, I’m reading it at the moment and loving it so so much more than Mrs Dalloway. Please join us for the To the Lighthouse discussion at Emily’s blog (I’ll link to her on my post if you don’t follow her already) on the 29th (Friday).. she’ll have links to the rest of the participants up.

  3. Interesting. I found Mrs. Dalloway more accessible than To The Lighthouse. Not that I managed a sophisticated understanding of either one. Maybe it was only that I read Mrs. D. second and a number of years later. Or maybe it was that my reading sessions of To the Lighthouse were in the U of O library right after lunch and my stomach had robbed my brain of blood. But I hold Virginia Woolf in the highest esteem despite my lack of success with her. It has been years since I braved her fiction, preferring her diaries and letters, so I think should attempt to read both of them again — and perhaps also Orlando. I shall read your comments with interest.

  4. I’ll be starting To The Lighthouse later today!

  5. […] Reading notes on one of my all-time favorite novels: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. […]

  6. I hadn’t read this one of Woolf’s before and am currently reading it for the Woolf in Winter. Goodness gracious, so far, it is very difficult to get through – not because it is much harder than Mrs. Dalloway but because it requires much more of your attention.

    I usually read at the office, at the store, in the car waiting for someone. This book… I find it impossible to do this. Unless I carve out time specifically to read it – in completely silence – I can’t retain the information.

  7. After the first 50 pages of To The Lighthouse I became attuned to the narrative and I struggled to put the book down. I thought the writing breathtaking. I finished yesterday and the story and characters are still in the forefront of my thoughts.

    For me it was in a different (higher) league to Mrs. Dalloway, though I enjoyed the latter book highly.

  8. Definitely getting this one from the library once I manage to polish off Mrs. Dalloway. My e-book croaked in the middle of reading, so I have to secure a real live paper copy now.

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