Virginia Woolf is one of the most famous modernist writers of the twentieth century. Her most famous works being Mrs Dalloway, A Room of One’s own and of course To the Lighthouse.
Mrs Dalloway surprised me when I first read it – far from disliking the novel, I found the ambling prose and slowly unfolding narrative almost hypnotic. It was like nothing I’d ever read before or since. I wish I felt the same way towards To the Lighthouse, but in truth I hated the novel.
The narrative was dull and uninteresting – almost nothing happens, and when something finally does happen Woolf seems to skim over all the interesting parts (refer to Part II: Time Passes) in favour of ruminating on a single painting that has taken more than 10 years to complete. The Ramsay’s and the rest of their brood are forgettable, if not annoying, and Charles Tansley proves the most odious of characters. The novel could not have ended sooner, and herein lies the book’s saving grace – it was not a long novel by any stretch of the imagination.
But whilst I didn’t enjoy the novel, the themes that Woolf explores, namely the passage of time and the destruction that it may wreak upon a single family, is in itself interesting. After all, TIME magazine named it one of the 100 best English language novels published since 1923.
Thus far from discouraging others to read To the Lighthouse, if you have a copy to hand be my guest – you may find that like me you hate the novel but it’s just as likely you may have discovered a new favourite to add to your collection. Either way, let me know what you think!