To The Lighthouse was the second book that I read for my university course. There was something about reading this classic that was very daunting. Woolf is known as a literary genius, as an author that has inspired people, an author that has written books with loads of meaning.
If you read my review of Great Expectations, you will know that I am not a regular reader of classic literature. In fact, I barely read it. Maybe that’s what was so daunting about reading To The Lighthouse…
The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women.
I wasn’t in a good mindset when I started this book and for the first seven chapters, I found it dull and confusing. I kept putting it down and picking it back up again to the point where I reached a reading slump. I didn’t read for two weeks (which is a mega long time for me!)
It got to that point where I said to myself: ‘Kirsty, you HAVE to read this for uni, so pick yourself up, get the book and binge-read it.’ And that’s exactly what I did. I started from the beginning again and finished reading it at five past one in the morning.
After I put the book down, my first thought was “what a load of rubbish!”. But after sitting on it for a few days and properly thinking about the novel, I understand Woolf’s style of writing more and what she meant to convey through this book.
Throughout To The Lighthouse, Woolf wants to portray to the reader the roles of men and women in that time. Through the character of Mrs. Ramsey, we are shown that women had to entertain, look after the children and smile no matter what. Mr. Ramsey was used to show us that men were the breadwinners, they were intelligent and were allowed to be moody because they were in deep thought the whole time pondering the ways of life *slight sarcasm on my end maybe?*
Another theme that Woolf wants to show the reader is the theme of time and how quickly it can pass us by and the damage that it can do.
Thinking of these two themes, I can see why the book would be very enjoyable to those who are avid classics readers, but for me, I found this book very hard and confusing to read. Woolf writes very very very long sentences. I think there’s a point in the book where half a page is just one sentence. She also writes as a flow of conscience, so she skips from character to character and the reader has to figure out which character point of view she’s writing from.
If you’re like me and hardly read classic literature, I suggest that you have Sparknotes at the ready – just in case you don’t understand what’s going on.
Overall, I can understand why people love this book as it talks about the stereotypical gender roles and Woolf is an amazing writer, she describes in huge detail so that you can paint a picture of the book in your head perfectly. However, the way she writes in long sentences and the flow of consciousness isn’t for me. I know that I will have to read this book again and again since I am studying it at university, but I hope that whilst I am dissecting the book in class, I grow to like this book. If I wasn’t studying it, To The Lighthouse isn’t a book that I would read again.