To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf


I’ve promised myself to record all the books I’ve read and my thoughts on it on this blog but unsurprisingly I’m failing. Luckily, it’s not too late to catch up! I’ve only read two books of fiction since my last record so here I am. It’s been a while since I’ve finished To The Lighthouse but it’s still pretty fresh in my mind, as expected with a book of one of my favourite writers. This is a half re-read to be honest. When I first started reading this almost three years ago I’d been on a bout of pretty heavy insomnia and was unable to focus properly. Let alone the fact that I took it with me on a three-day music festival. I thought it very boring, possibly due to the fact that I was only able to focus on one paragraph at a time. I’m so glad that I picked it up again now because this time round I found it gorgeous.

I’m honestly always completely in awe of Virginia Woolf’s stream of consciousness and how she’s able to convey a myriad of emotions with a couple of complicated soliloquies. Being able to read the sometimes simple, sometimes dramatic but always highly personal thoughts is not only interesting in a purely theoretic literary sense but also fascinating for the inherent voyeurism in people. This time round I’ve come to the conclusion that To The Lighthouse is possibly the most successful stream of consciousness novel by Mrs Woolf aside from The Waves. I personally still prefer latter because the coming of age theme and the even more experimental nature. Still, To The Lighthouse is breathtakingly gorgeous and it has the most touching sense of familial life interlaced with themes of childhood I’ve ever read. Virginia Woolf loosely based this novel on childhood memories and that’s very much tangible as well in the language and themes described.

Here’s an excerpt I really loved:

“So loveliness reigned and stillness, and together made the shape of loveliness itself, a form from which life had parted; solitary like a pool at evening far distant, seen from a train window, vanishing so quickly that the pool, pale in the evening, is scarcely robbed of its solitude, though once seen. Loveliness and stillness clasped hands in the bedroom, and among the shrouded jugs and sheeted chairs even the prying of the wind, and the soft nose of the clammy sea airs, rubbing, snuffling, iterating, and reiterating their questions – ‘Will you fade? Will you perish?’ – scarcely disturbed the peace, the indifference, the air of pure inegrity, as if the question they asked scarcely needed that they should answer: we remain.”

(To The Lighthouse cover design by Vanessa Bell)