WOOLF in WINTER. I’m late to the party, having been unable to finish books by any deadline. To catch up on the discussion, please visit the Evening All Afternoon post from January 29th.
Thoughts To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, no year printed?!* Harcourt Brace and World (originally published 1927), 310 pages
MOTIVATION to READ: I’m falling in love with Virginia Woolf’s style. I am attempting to participate in the Woolf in Winter Read-along but am woefully behind and have ‘blasts of doubt’** that I will get to the remaining books per the discussion timetable. Can’t read everything! I hate being overwhelmed by my tbr… This was a library book, but I’m hoping to find a large print version so I can donate to the Shaw Home Library (and get my dear friend Madeline to read it – not that she needs large print but she doesn’t need me buying her books – ha! *wink*)
WHAT IT’s ABOUT: I’ve only just started reading everyone’s posts from two weeks ago, but I hope it is OK to borrow something I saw somewhere in a comment that this is “low on plot.” The setting is a summer home owned by the Ramseys and filled with their eight children and more than a few guests and servants. The first half of the book is comprised of a morning scene when a boy expresses a wish to go to the lighthouse but gets shot down due to probable weather conditions. This part (and the day) ends at dinner. The second half was an impersonal section of life thoughts (perhaps VWs?) with snippets of death notices – sounds harsh as I write it this way but it was harsh to me so I’ll not change it. We are back at the summer house ten years later: the servants tidy the place, Lily starts over on a painting, and a few others take a sailboat to the Lighthouse. That’s about it.
I guess I should mention one of the main protagonists, Mrs. Ramsey, and how she is truly the heart of this novel. We feel her thoughts and emotions (can thoughts be felt? Are thoughts not energy? – say yes – and we can feel energy, right? so I do believe we can feel thoughts.) We are “in knowing” of Mrs. Ramsey in the first half of the book as she contemplates everything that is important to her and we get softly seamlessly transferred between other character’s thoughts as they revolve around Mrs. Ramsey – she controlled a solar system and she was the sun. It just struck me that I usually do not write much in my ‘thoughts’ posts about what a book is about but I want to with this one – and yet almost nothing ‘happens’! I think, perhaps, that this book is another ‘in the head’ books and I’m not confident with literature-analysis. Like the difference between knowing a great song and not being able to sing; I appreciate the amazing critiques but feel unable to express (or even have) my own thoughts. I am in awe of the other reviews and feel so humbled to think I want to try and be smart enough to participate. (thus the few comments – I am inadequate even saying ‘wow – great review’. But I’m here. I’ll play. Ya know, these things can get so intimidating – these discussions – but … I don’t know. I’ll shut up. No, I won’t, who am I kidding!?
Last night, in my sleeps or in my dreams, I’m really not sure which, I wrestled with thinking and the construction of sentences with many commas as Ms Woolf does in this book and I felt the wave action of strange thoughts move and toss me and myself questioning the big questions without really voicing or expressing the question in words – it was a strange gloomy glossy swirly experience that now is only a shimmering hazy reflection that I’m not really sure happened as I remember.
Woolf’s prose is brain candy but luxurious candy like dark chocolate mousse or chocolate truffles from Godiva or Vosges Haute Chocolate with Bacon…
I did not like Mr. Ramsey. I never did understand the ‘someone has blundered’ stuff. He was like DOWN to his wife’s UP — opposites. He only thought of himself – she thought of others. His creation was his own wonderfulness living on; hers was a beautiful moment held in time. Not to say she was perfect; I don’t want to say that. But she was at least more self-aware and considerate, even if over-bearing.
p. 240 Mrs. R saying “Life stand still here.”
I loved the dichotomy of different perspectives all on the same event or situation. How dinners together are wonderful or just a waste of time; a silly diversion or necessary for true connections to others.
I was amazed at the skill that VW moved us through to other people – sometimes within sentences, so easy! It felt like a camera panning over a scene and the thoughts therein voiced as the camera focused, from one person to the next. How non-repetitive the obvious repetition seemed – it was appropriate. How some phrases were poetry: “He caught the rats, he cut the grass.” p. 209 -and/or- “ineffectiveness of action, supremacy of thought” p. 292.
I adored Lily. I respected her thoughtful questioning and her choosing her life as she did while accepting that others thought her a sad old-maid. I loved her internal challenges to everyone – not giving Mr. Ramsey the sympathy he was so desperate for, considering the idea of not being kind to Charles Tansley because he was a total ass.
So much going on in this: male-female relationships, generational differences, reactions and choices per gender, father-son vs. father-daughter relationships, physical beauty and its impressions, marriage, even love as a concept – all kinds of love.
Do I assume that the red-hot poker flower was a symbol of something or that I’m over-analyzing? Passions and emotions? In fact, flowers in general appear everywhere throughout the text. “She dropped her basket of flowers.”
I thought the very last line was incredible (and I would quote it here but I dropped the book back off at the library before I wrote it down!!! oh well.)
RATING: Five Pieces of Pie.
p155 – furze – gorse: very spiny and dense evergreen shrub with fragrant golden-yellow flowers; common throughout western Europe (I don’t know gorse, either! You get the same definition…)
p260 – benignant – serenely mild and kindly (I know benign – but am used to it only in terms of types of tumors; I had not seen it in this form and even though I could ‘figure it out’, I wanted to write it down.)
p294 – cosmogony – the branch of astrophysics that studies the origin and evolution and structure of the universe (see note in parenthesis for benignant – same issue)
p296 – earwig – any of numerous insects of the order Dermaptera having elongate bodies and slender many-jointed antennae and a pair of large pincers at the rear. YUCK.
p303 – censer – a container for burning incense; especially one that is swung on a chain in a religious ritual.
p309 – asphodels – a plant
I had the coolest bookmark for this book. It featured a beautiful collection of lighthouses from Rhode Island. If you would like to see it, please visit the artist who created it; Bev’s Studio.com. <– just click…
(I just throw this in because it was from first thing this morning after getting 8″ of snow. It was so beautiful but the pretty suspended stuff in the tree limbs and on the streets are already melted away… I was trying to find a photo of Whale Rock which USED to be a lighthouse.)
* but this tiny print after the “All rights reserved, blahblahblah” of Y.5.67 makes me think this book was printed in 1967. A glued-in note states that the book was purchased for the Wareham Free Library in 1974. The book cover says it is a Harbrace Modern Classic.
** Although the context weight is much different between my situation here and the one with Lily on p236-7, I loved this: “Always (it was her nature, or in her sex, she did not know which) before she exchanged the fluidity of life for the concentration of painting (text shows no punctuation but I need a pause here) she had few moments of nakedness when she seemed like an unborn soul, a soul reft of body, hesitating on some windy pinnacle and exposed without protection to all the blasts of doubt.”
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