So it was a fortnight ago that I thought I was about to commit a sacrilegious act here on Savidge Reads by admitting that I wasn’t a great fan of ‘Mrs Dalloway’ and that whilst I had respect for Woolf’s delightful London imagery and prose I wasn’t a fan of the book. I did say I would carry on with the ‘Woolf in Winter’ which I signed up for last year and use ‘To The Lighthouse’ as a second attempt to get along better with Ginny, would it work?
When ‘To The Lighthouse’ opens we join James Ramsey and his parents as they discuss the likelihood of visiting the nearby lighthouse the following day. Mrs Ramsey tries to pacify her son by saying that they can ‘if the weather is fine’ however Mr Ramsey is pessimistic and almost cruel in telling his son that ‘it won’t be fine’ somehow this initial chapter both sets the tone for the rest of the book. In fact really it sets the scene for the rest of the book where in three parts we see what becomes of the Ramsey family before and after World War I and why many years later they make that journey back to the lighthouse in question.
I found the way this book was written was quite incredible. The first part of the book sets the scene and tone of the rest of it, as I mentioned before whilst introducing all the characters. The second part I found an incredible piece of technically skilled writing as Woolf manages to encompass a decade of a family’s life including an event that rocks the family during the war torn years of World War I (Woolf called this writing a H, with two parts of a story and a corridor in the middle). The thing is I am not sure a book can live by prose alone in some books (see Home by Marilynne Robinson) and I found myself meandering mentally away during this book and then having to re-read a page or two.
I will say that I generally gelled with this book much better than I did with Mrs Dalloway. I seemed to care more about the characters in this novel and wanted to know more about them from the start. I think having had the previous Woolf experience of her writing through streams of consciousness I was also more open to the writing style and enjoyed this novel the more for it. I am not sure how this novel would be received by someone new to Woolf. This post is probably a slightly rambling and confused set of book thoughts, I think that is simply how Woolf leaves me. Stunning prose but, but… I don’t know quite what the but is but there is one and its making reading Woolf more of a chore than a pleasure.
So what does this mean for me and ‘Woolf in Winter’? At the moment I am a bit 50/50. I loved the idea of this read-a-long as I felt like I had support out there; sadly though I am also worried reading Woolf every two weeks for the two books could endanger me from being put off for life. I think what might be best is to have ‘Orlando’ on the bedside and the selection of short from the library loot the other day and see if they spark any interest. If they do marvellous, if they don’t well that’s fine too. Does that sound like a complete cop out? Do pop over to the wonderful Emily who is hosting today!
How did you all get on with ‘To The Lighthouse’? Do let me know as your thoughts after ‘Mrs Dalloway’ invigorated me for the next Woolf challenge and may again. I am sure lots of you will have lots of insight into this book that might push it from 3 stars (Mrs Dalloway would have had 2.5, so it’s a step forward) to 3.5, ha. So go for it, what did you think?