To The Lighthouse is the second Virginia Woolf book I have read as part of The Woolf in Winter Read Along (the discussion for this particular book being hosted by Emily) and it has created a little bit of a dilemma for me as I now don't know whether this one or Mrs Dalloway is my favourite! A nice dilemma to be in really!
I am actually a little blown away by how much I have enjoyed Woolf's writing - I can't get enough of it! A part of me is disappointed in myself that I have never tried to read any of her work before this, but another part of me thinks I have come across her books at just the right time in my reading life.
To The Lighthouse has been described as one of Woolf's most autobiographical novels - a homage to her deceased parents. In the introduction (which I read after reading the novel) to the edition of the book that I read Woolf is quoted as saying that;
I wrote the book very quickly; and when it was written, I ceased to be obsessed by my mother. I no longer hear her voice, I do not see her. I suppose that I did for myself what psychoanalysts do for their patients. I expressed some very long felt and deeply felt emotion. And in expressing it I explained it and then laid it to rest.
As a counsellor and mental health professional I found this very interesting and the writer of the introduction goes on to talk about the writing of the book as being a narrative kind of therapy for Woolf - which is exactly the type of therapy I use with my clients who are seeing me for issues relating to grief and loss. The creation of your own story, or narrative, is a way for people to recognise and validate the losses in their lives from their own perspective.
In To The Lighthouse Woolf has created the characters of Mrs and Mr Ramsey to correspond with her parents and through the novel we see how their partnership as husband and wife has developed and how they relate to each other and their children in the context of their summer house in Scotland and surrounded by various friends and acquaintances. The novel starts with Mrs and Mr Ramsey talking with their youngest child, James, about a possible trip out to the Island's lighthouse the next day;
'Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow,' said Mrs Ramsey. 'But you'll have to be up with the lark,' she added.
To her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy, as if it were settled the expedition were bound to take place, and the wonder to which he had looked forward, for years and years it seemed, was, after a night's darkness and a day's sail, within touch.
I love this opening scene - I remember as a child looking forward to something so much and being told by my parents "we'll see" in response to whether it would happen or not - and to a child "we'll see" always seems to mean "yes"! Of course Mr Ramsey puts a darkness over the scene by declaring that it won't be fine tomorrow so don't get your hopes up -and in this simple scene we clearly see the personalities of each parent and how they are perceived by their child.
The most interesting parts of the novel for me were those that focused on relationships and connections between people and objects. The relationships between Mrs and Mr Ramsey and their children in explored in many different ways and across time - we see the relationships not necessarily change but be expressed from different perspectives.
The novel is told in three section and I found the middle section - Time Passes - extremely sad and mournful (as I am sure it is meant to be). Each section is clearly distinct from the other and yet they blend together wonderfully to create the whole story.
I know there is so much more I could be writing about and reflecting on but I feel as a new reader to Woolf I still have much to learn - not only about her writing but also about her life as I feel that will inform and accompany my reading of her work beautifully. So, with that said - does anyone have any good recommendations for further reading about Woolf herself?
Looking forward to our next Woolf read...