June 5th, 2019

Virginia Woolf: To The Lighthouse (Finished)


I have finished To the Lighthouse and about halfway through the novel, I fell in love with it.  Not because of Woolf's 'Stream of Conscious' writing style, or the continual narrative shift of the story (I am wondering if she had kept the styles separate, would her writing been lessened in any way, because the shifts can detract from the reading), but when she uses the third person omnipotent to describe places.

Obviously, this novel is multi-layered and therefore can be interpretted from multiple aspects. I am trying not to give spoilers away, but after circumnavigating the tides of emotion that ride in the Ramsay house during 'The Window', the following chapter seems rather abrupt and at least three members of the family have departed the mortal coil in one form or another.  As I had not read up on the plot line, I was a bit ' Oh?[...] Oh!' in some areas.  The sadness is felt by Woolf's descriptions of the house that had been laid empty for over a decade; 'The house was left; the house was deserted.  It was left like a shell on a sand hill to fill with dry salt grains now that life had left it' (p.112).  The reader does feel that sense of emptiness and this is underlined by Woolf's description of the building's interior;


The saucepans had rusted and the mat decayed. Toads nosed their way in* [...] a thistle thrust itself between the tiles in the larder.  The swallows nested in the drawing room; the floor was strewn with straw; the plaster fell in shovelfuls, rafters were laid bare; rats carried off this and that to gnaw behind the wainscots.  Tortoiseshell butterflies burst from their chrysalis and pattered their life out on the window-pane (p.112-3).

No multiple narratives, no stream of conscious thought and I think these sentences are beautifully crafted because of it.

(* Private note - before we managed to mend the crack in the backdoor, we had toads entering our cottage all the time.  Quite a surprise to see a full adult toad nestling up against the aga first thing in the morning.  Our cat wouldn't go near it).

Best line of the day.  Lily Briscoe's point of view upon returning to the (now refurbished) house and her feeling about it; 'Love had a thousand shapes.'(p,113)  I think it was the descriptions of the house throughout the book that made me think of my mother's old house and this is why I fell in love with To the Lighthouse, as it reminds me of a Cornwall that I love.


Tomorrow, I start Orlando.  Wish me luck :-)