Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Turn of the Century Salon: To the Lighthouse

I thought that I had read To the Lighthouse by Virgina Woolf before, but to my surprise, I hadn't. I haven't read anything by her for years, although I used to love her books very much. She's not the most accessible of authors and it always takes me a while to get used to her style. But it's worth it.

To the Lighthouse takes place on two days, but years apart. A trip to the lighthouse is planned and then canceled, years later it finally does takes place. If you now think that this isn't the most thrilling of stories, you are forgiven. What's important in the book are the characters thoughts and feelings and Woolf follows them, jumping from thought to thought, often switching between characters without any clear indication when such a change happens. The characters' inner voices come together like a piece of music and create a vivid scene, a moment in time.

It's a deeply personal book and reflects Woolf's feelings for her mother and her writing process - something that didn't come easy to her. What struck me is how much it is about things being left unsaid. The Ramsays almost never speak their thoughts to each other (but understand each other anyway) and their children keep much of their thoughts to themselves, even when they would like to talk about important things. For me, it was about the inability to know another person and how we construct images of other people in our mind that may or may not actually fit that person.

If you want to read a stream of consciousness-novel, then this or Woolf's other books are a much easier choice than James Joyce, the other famous representative of this technique. It's also a glimpse of society on its way from the Victorian Age into the 20th century and as always, Woolf pays special attention to the women.

1. book for the Turn of the Century Salon
Reviews 2013

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