To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf is a novel that’s been on my reading list for a long time. The novel is divided into three sections. The narration of the novel is introspective and philosophical, with the plot a second to it. It focuses on the Ramsay family, who are visiting the Isle of Skye.
The story seems simple enough with it focused on one family, Ramsays’ and a few of their acquaintances. There are a lot of characters that are introduced so at the start, it is a little hard to keep a track of everyone. It is complicated to explain the plot without it being confusing. The book is written in the stream of consciousness. This style is effective for the narration of such a novel, but I like always, find it difficult to read it for a longer period. It gets heavy to process. Although as your reading it didn’t bother me. The novel has a lot of substance and it’s not just about the style of writing.
The most prominent aspect of the novel is Time. The concept of time is explored through thoughts and impressions of the characters as well as through events happening in the world. The slow deterioration of the house and the change of seasons all keep reminding you of the time passing. It is more about the way these characters process memories than focus on actual events. Time is an extremely subjective concept and human experience can’t be measured. This is something I feel we all can relate to. In fact, there is a range of emotions portrayed through the characters and you find at least half of them relatable.
We all ponder the meaning of life. The characters in this story are different. They have their own perspectives and come up with meanings that suit them. For example, Mrs. Ramsay finds meaning in her family life while a character like Lily believes the meaning of life is in creating art. There is no one or ultimate meaning of life, no one great purpose. Life can have multiple meanings; it is not singular. It depends on the phase of your life, goals, and experiences. Though none of the characters are completely confident they have found their purpose, it is always with a shadow of doubt.
Virginia Woolf’s style of writing is intimidating and the stream-of-consciousness style doesn’t make it easier. Although, like it happened for her other works I have read – Mrs. Dalloway and A Room of One’s Own, you get used to the flow and tone of the writing. To the Lighthouse is a simple plot wise but it is complex and deep on such an emotional level. It keeps you interested in these characters, their thoughts, and their motives. The story is character driven and since, the narration shifts from one person to another, you get an insight into every character’s mind.
It took me a while to finish reading To the Lighthouse but it is engaging. The way it is written, it has a rhythm to it and almost feels like poetry at times. The intricacies of the characters and the complexness of human experience are beautifully described in the novel. Woolf’s writing is not something that is re-read suitable for me which is sad. I did enjoy reading this book. It is not as lofty as one might think.
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