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35. Virginia Woolf, 'To The Lighthouse'
el_staplador wrote in queerlit50
It's difficult to be objective about a book that one knows has meant an awful lot to somebody else, particularly when that happened in a context that one can to some extent relate to oneself. This is why this review of To The Lighthouse will not be terribly objective: I was extremely conscious, at least at the beginning, that this, was The Book That Helped S. With That, and that S. had taken the lighthouse as a metaphor for the way out of that situation. I've used the metaphor myself, without reading the book.

Intellectually, I knew that this was an important work that marked a significant point in twentieth-century literature. Knowing that sort of thing changes the way one reads something, too. Did I try too hard to be clever? If so, I stopped pretty soon, because actually I found it a very easy read. Once I stopped trying to swim against the current of the stream of consciousness, I enjoyed it. I didn't have to worry about following the plot, or sorting out the characters in my head, because Woolf did it all for me.

Nothing much happens - or does it? - but anyway, it doesn't matter. A family, together with a few hangers-on, goes to their house on a Scottish island for the summer, and go away again. Several years later, after the First World War, some of them go back again.

My favourite part was the bit in between, where Woolf describes how the house falls disrepair. Disasters afflict the family, but they happen off-stage, in parentheses, while the decay is sensitively, lovingly, almost, enumerated, and becomes beautiful.

I also knew that waiting around for something to do the same thing to me as it did to somebody else is a mug's game - which is a good thing, because it didn't. It wasn't the beacon that it was for S. - but then we're in different places.


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