Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Classics Club: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

(about the Classics Club)


I first read Virginia Woolf for a Master's class about 20 years ago, and was immediately enamored of her and her style.  Over the years, I've read most of her works, and am slowly rereading them again as the desire takes me.  I wanted to reread To the Lighthouse, as I couldn't remember much about it.

I thought again and again how easy it is to read Woolf, to sink into her prose and just flow with it.  I thought about how each character saw the same events of the day so differently, and how believable each character and their views were.  I thought about how masterful Woolf is to present a novel with nearly no dialogue or action, and almost all introspection.  I thought about how much I love her subtle shifts of perspective.  One character will be thinking and it will gradually shift into another character's thoughts in the middle of a paragraph.

Reading Woolf always makes me feel like I'm floating on the ocean, just flowing with the waves, letting the wash over me or move me along.  I simply get lost in her prose, and let her lead me where she will.  I also felt a range of emotions while reading To the Lighthouse: I teared up a few times, I laughed, I felt conflicted, I was connected to the characters and felt their varied emotions.

"To pursue the truth with such astonishing lack of consideration for other people's feelings, to rend the thin veils of civilization so wantonly, so brutally, was to her so horrible an outrage of human decency that, without replying, dazed and blinded, she bent her head as if to let the pelt of jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her unrebuked.  There was nothing to be said."

"They came to her, naturally, since she was a woman, all day long with this and that; one wanting this, another that; the children were growing up; she often felt she was nothing but a sponge sopped full of human emotions."

". . . but most of all he hated the twang and twitter of his father's emotion which, vibrating all around them, disturbed the perfect simplicity and good sense of his relations with his mother."

"His immense self-pity, his demand for sympathy poured and spread itself in pools at her feet, and all she did, miserable sinner that she was, was to draw her skirts a little closer round her ankles, lest she should get wet."

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