Saturday, March 24

To The Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse is actually I book I’ve read before. It’s short, with an uncomplicated plot and interesting prose structure. I thought it would be a great quick pick for the shortest month of the year.

You may well notice that it's actually late March now and not February any more:

Well, I obviously forgot that it's Virginia Woolf and not The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

My edition is 235 pages long, which is really not a lot. I should have whizzed through this book. However, I think that’s where I went wrong. I wanted this to be a bit of light reading, which—if you’ve ever read anything vaguely Virginia, you’ll know is just not what happens.

This a book you need to spend some time with. In a long bath, on a beach holiday, snowed into a remote Icelandic log cabin. You can’t really pick it up, read a bit, and chug along. There are run-on sentences in To The Lighthouse that are over a page and a half long. The prose switches between narrators so frequently that stopping to make a brew can throw you off for twenty minutes. Or maybe that’s just me.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book upon second reading. The Time Passes section is some of my favourite writing of all time. The paper-thin plot of To The Lighthouse on a very basic level is about the Ramsay family and the evidently excruciating process of organising a family trip to the nearby lighthouse. Time Passes is the incredibly emotive middle passage that depicts in minute detail the quiet animation of the summer holiday spot when it’s left to mildew during the winter months.

Wood rots, people die, and all in all it perfectly depicts that feeling of visiting an empty playground after dark; catching a glimpse of your own reflection in an obscured mirror—a family home devoid of any recognisable faces. It’s got a deep, dark, supernatural quality to it.

To try and finish this book by any means, I decided to go back to ol’ faithful Audible. Interestingly enough, Nicole Kidman is the voice actor for the audiobook and oddly her Aussie twang works perfectly. She narrates warmly and softly, and somehow brings the wandering narrative voices together in a neat bow.

One of the characters in the novel, Lily Briscoe, is an unfulfilled painter. At one point, she muses on the same note—what the people she knows and loves ‘do’ when they’re out of sight. It’s that feeling of wondering what your dog gets up to home alone all day. That kind of Schrödinger's Cat knowing/not knowing. 

I haven’t finished this book—I have to be honest, I wanted to move on. I want to come back to it in the summer when I have more time. There’s so much woven into it that it seems unfair to have try and cram in. I boxed myself into a corner  and stopped myself enjoying it. One day, Like the Ramsay family’s ever-delayed family holiday; I will also make it to the end of The Lighthouse. But not this month-- or, evidently, last month.

At least the Penguin Vintage Classics Woolf Series edition looks nice on my bookshelf in the meantime. 

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