2009: 53.  To The Lighthouse

“Yes, of course, if it’s fine tomorrow,” said Mrs. Ramsay.  “But you’ll have to be up with the lark.”

To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

To The Lighthouse is the story of a day in a family’s life in their country house, and of each family’s thoughts and feelings - and then (after a modernist interval), that same family ten years later.  But, of course, its not about the day and the family, but about the thoughts and the emotions and the shifting relations between them.  

It was such a contrast to read (well, re-read) To The Lighthouse after recently having read Ulysses.  Although Woolf and Joyce both are stream of consciousness modernist writers, they couldn’t be more different.  Where Joyce, to me at least seems all eggheady and overly clever - writing from the head, Woolf, at least in To The Lighthouse seems of the heart, writing, yes, of each thought that drifts through the character’s heads, trying to use her writing to capture each of their thoughts as they shimmer through the day, it seems to be of the heart, or the emotion.  Where I was impressed by Joyce, I felt the Woolf, and while I struggled with parts of it - there is so much there that I think might need more than the two reads I’ve already done to really understand it.  

One thing I really loved about re-reading To The Lighthouse, is how I got something totally different from the novel than when I read it in college.  The last time I read this book, I underlined the parts about men and women, but this time it was the parts about mothers and children.  Which clearly talks about my own changing perspectives, of course, but to me it also highlights how rich the text is and how much is packed into it.  And its about art versus  family and whether you can have both (and how maybe men can but women can’t)*, and it’s about family and love and life, and while I understand why Ulysses is number 1 on the Modern Library Top 100 list, To The Lighthouse speaks more to me.**


*While being about so much more than just that cliched whine 

** And makes me wonder what the list would have been like if women wrote it?


Date/Place Completed: April 2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Modern Library Top 100, Book Resolutions, Commuting Book, Re-read

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017