This is something that I’ve been meaning to do properly on this blog for very very long time. And so here it is, finally! *Warning slight spoilers*
I’m going to start my book review segment with a classic, Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. This was an especially interesting read because it aptly shows Woolf playing around with writing styles and form.
In her diaries she mentions literally basing the entire novel around a shape similar to that of the letter “H” and even argues that in the most literal sense it is incorrect to call the book a novel seeing as it contradicts everything we associate with one.
I had to read this book for my university course here at UON and honestly found that other people had very mixed reactions to it.
Personally, I loved it. Yes, it was difficult at times but that was part of its charm- the fact that you sometimes did get lost with who was narrating the story, what exactly had happened and the fact that Woolf chooses to emphasise stream of consciousness over other seemingly big plot points.
I especially liked the character of Lilly Briscoe and the entire psychology of her character. She is someone who in other novels would probably be more in the background, not entirely someone key to the progress of the novel- because it is after all focused around her development in particular and the finished piece of art and her analysis of the characters around her. Lilly is obsessed with her painting and the ideas that others put in her head of her never being an artist, because women aren’t good at art. At the end of the novel, she appears to battle through her own insecurities and finishes the painting stating, as she does, “I have had my vision.”
Other than that, as you read the book there are recurring references to the lighthouse in everyday objects, this is apparent as at times the description mimics it – “abstract arabesques” are described centring around pillars as well as other curves and shapes.
This obsession with a final destination, the idea that everything will be better once they reach it and the disappointment that James feels when his dad continuously dashes his hopes of going. In my eyes I saw it as a representation of the things we want but never get the chance to pursue. The focus on characters going to the window, the stability and reliability of it always being there even through the war and storms when some of the characters do not. It comments on mortality and how the characters view themselves and their roles within society.
I feel as though no two people get the same thing from the story and that it’s ambiguity leaves it open to interpretation. For these reasons some people don’t like Woolf’s writing but for someone like me who very much enjoys long musing ramblings from someone else’s internal thoughts- I found this book amazing.
I have Orlando on my shelf at the moment as well as some of her essays that I hope to get round to reading at some point.
Overall, if you’re interested in something a little different and unique to read then I highly recommend this novel. If you’ve read modernist work before then this is a great addition to make, and if not this is a very good example of the form.
5 stars *****