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To the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf
209 pages

This classic Virginia Woolf novel is such a "mood piece." Comprised of three major sections, To the Lighthouse is predominantly a portrait of the Ramsey family and its influential, beautiful matriarch. Most of the "action" (and I use that term loosely) takes place at a summer home off the coast of Scotland. Part 1 is a "day in the life" of Mrs. Ramsey, whose house is chock-a-block with visitors. She is a constant presence, caring for the youngest of her eight children, keeping a watchful eye on her moody husband, meddling a bit in young romance, and ensuring both timely, well-prepared meals and the general happiness of her guests. The tempo is slow, the imagery evocative, the overall feeling ethereal.

Part 2 is a short section called "Time Passes," in which the next ten years unfold in factual narrative. And yet this section, which unveiled a number of significant Ramsey family events, had a surprisingly emotional impact. This was followed by Part 3, with the Ramsey family once again at their holiday home, picking up the pieces of a life gone somewhat awry. The youngest children, now teenagers, accompany their father on a visit to a lighthouse near the island. They are filled with teenage resentment, pent up over years of somewhat tyrannical paternal rule. Their emotions ebb and flow like the waves lapping at the side of their boat.

And what happens, exactly? Not much. And yet, somehow, I was entranced by this family's life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach (p. 47) This is a book best read, and re-read, and savored to glean new details and insights each time. ( )

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Oct. 26th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
Definitely a classic. Great review! I loved this when I read it in college.

-Marie, www.BostonBibliophile.com
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )