During my holiday I managed to read ‘To the Lighthouse’. I didn’t expect it to be easy but neither did I expect it to be so compelling. I read it in coffee shops, on the beach, waiting for the kettle to boil. A simple plot, little dialogue and little action, but that’s not what it is about. It is haunting and enthralling. My literature training of identifying ‘showing’ and ‘telling’ was a bit challenged. Which is it? Is it neither? I immediately recognised it as autobiographical with Mr and Mrs Ramsay representing Leslie and Julia Stephen; the death of Mrs Ramsay, clearly portraying the death of Virginia’s mother.
To me it showed the transience of life, the power of nature, the experiences and thoughts of characters and how one person’s personality is not just ‘fixed’ and static but variable, depending on the ‘viewer’ and his or her experiences and values. If I was doing a university essay here, I would have to back this up with evidence from the text but with me, on this occasion, it is a feeling, that I am struggling to articulate.
My first thought while reading the first page was how long the sentences were and I had to read the, ‘since he belonged, even at the age of six …….’ sentence quite a few times to ‘unpick’ the clauses but I soon came to love them. The themes of transience, nature, grief and love are to me, the haunting aspects of this novel and these are the reasons that I am still thinking about this novel, long after I have read the last word.
Now that I have visited Monk’s House I have a picture in my mind of Virginia at her writing desk in her writing lodge at the bottom of her garden. Pacing around perhaps, looking out to the stunning views and writing every word that I have just read.