To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This novel made me laugh, but not for the regular reasons. I laughed because I had to re-read whole swaths of the beginning because I swore I was going mad. Into just how many heads was I going to have to flit between without so much as a by-your-leave? Many, and many, I was soon to learn, as we left the comfortable world of limited omniscient viewpoint and right into deep internal absolute omniscient viewpoint from paragraph to paragraph.
What? How? Where's the editor? Is Ms. Woolf insane?
Not at all. It just took me a bit of a learning curve, and I settled into one of the deepest and widest internal dialogues of a single comfortable family living on an island in Scotland near a lighthouse.
The writing is truly gorgeous, but if you know anything about classics and know anything about the Lost Generation of writers in the 20's, the ex-patriots and the disillusioned souls following the nightmare of WWI, then you know that nothing is ever as it seems.
After all, taken on it's surface, the novel is an epic of a family going through the generations, just trying to leave the front door of the house to eventually go visit the lighthouse. When it happens, of course, one must eventually give up on the reality or the likelihood of god.
Fortunately for us, things are not always as they seem, because that would be a piss-poor excuse for a novel, wouldn't it? Oh, yes, it would. But no worries, that idea was sublimated quite nicely and through a decade's worth of living a life.
And I can't make any excuses here, the novel is dense and idea-rich. It deserves all of your attention and then some. By my third read in two days, I've teared up and got way too emotional over the "house-only" scene, where time has passed and no one but the crotchety old woman is around to clean occasionally while the Ramsays are away. I'm sorry. That scene blew me away with it's utter desolation compared to the life, life, life, of the family, all it's ups and downs, the small miracles and the annoyances and reversals.
Lily was interesting as a very beautiful counterpoint to Mrs. Ramsay, full of equal portions reflection and action in stark comparison to the stern matron of the house, and she, more than anything else, taught me to love the mother. Truly. What a gorgeous and dense novel.
I'm certain that I'll re-read this again some time, and I'll probably re-read it several times during that sitting, too. It is deep and complex and full of treasures and beauty. I'm not generally one for re-reads, either, but some few books out there simply beg to be wallowed in, and this one is definitely one of that ilk.
Mrs. Ramsay holds a very special place in my heart, easily deeper and more complicated than the menfolk who dismiss her for being a woman in her middle years waffling between love and contentment and quiet despair and universal contemplation.
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