Wednesday, 14 January 2009

4 - 'To The Lighthouse' by Virginia Woolf

'Stream of conciousness' is one of those expressions that I had a vague idea of, but had never really come across until last year. Then I read 'On The Road' and experienced the style of writing where you are inside the head of the characters, confusing as that may be at times, something which makes you keep reading even though it's sometimes difficult to follow the ideas.

Well, 'To The Lighthouse' is that to the power 27. The book is only about 220 pages long, and the short middle section is comparatively easy to read, but what comes before and after this passage of literary calm is more mentally taxing than a whole shelf at your local Borders. The quick exchange of points of view from the numerous characters at the Ramsay's (not-so-secret code for the Stephens, Woolf's family) holiday house on the Isle of Skye draw you in; it's difficult to stop (but a relief, at times, when you do!).

Essentially, as Woolf puts it, 'an elegy' to her parents, especially her philosopher father, it also explores various relationships (husband-wife, father-son, friends) and lays bare the tension that is always present in human relationships. The use of stream of conciousness brings the aggression and tension to the forefront of the reader's attention, similar to the way D.H. Lawrence shows us the thoughts of the characters of 'Sons and Lovers' and 'The Rainbow'. I always had Woolf down as a feminist writer and was a little unsure as to how I would like this book, but it's definitely enjoyable (providing you don't have too many external distractions!).

So, is it worth reading?

In short, I bought this on a whim, and after reading it, I'm keen to read 'Mrs. Dalloway' and explore Woolf's literary world a little more. I think that's about as good a recommendation as you'll get!