A pioneering work of modernist fiction, using her unique stream-of-consciousness technique to explore the inner lives of her characters, Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" is widely regarded as one of the greatest artistic achievements of the twentieth century. This "Penguin Classics" edition is edited by Stella McNichol, with an introduction ...
A pioneering work of modernist fiction, using her unique stream-of-consciousness technique to explore the inner lives of her characters, Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" is widely regarded as one of the greatest artistic achievements of the twentieth century. This "Penguin Classics" edition is edited by Stella McNichol, with an introduction and notes by Hermione Lee. "To the Lighthouse" is at once a vivid impressionistic depiction of a family holiday, and a meditation on marriage, on parenthood and childhood, on grief, tyranny and bitterness. For years now the Ramsays have spent every summer in their holiday home in Scotland, and they expect these summers will go on forever; but as the First World War looms, the integrity of family and society will be fatally challenged. With a psychologically introspective mode, the use of memory, reminiscence and shifting perspectives gives the novel an intimate, poetic essence, and at the time of publication in 1927 it represented an utter rejection of Victorian and Edwardian literary values. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is regarded as a major 20th century author and essayist, a key figure in literary history as a feminist and modernist, and the centre of 'The Bloomsbury Group', an informal collective of artists and writers that exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture. Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from "Mrs Dalloway" (1925) to the poetic and highly experimental novel "The Waves" (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography, including the playfully subversive "Orlando" (1928) and "A Room of One's Own" (1929) a passionate feminist essay. If you enjoyed "To the Lighthouse", you might like James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man", also available in "Penguin Classics". "Bears endless re-reading ...the sea encircles the story in a brilliant ebb and flow". (Rachel Billington).
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"To The Lighthouse is sublime." You simply must read it if you haven't read it yet. If you've read it, read it again and again and again..
Aug 23, 2007
"While staying with the Ramsay family on St. Ives, painter Lily Briscoe looks up from the canvas to the garden: "And as she lost consciousness of outer things, and her name and her personality and her appearance. . .her mind kept throwing up from its depths, scenes, and names, and sayings, and memories and ideas, like a fountain spurting over that. . .white space, while she modelled it with greens and blues."
And with this, Virginia Woolf reverses the conceptions of the 19th century English novel by dismantling the scaffolding of exterior events--at times events like Mrs. Ramsay's death and World War I seem almost parenthetical--that serve only as mere occasions to release the inner processes and movements of her characters' minds, to introduce speculation and doubt in the narrative voice even about the opaqueness of those characters where once the (usually male) narrator was omniscient and godlike in its authority, and to replicate what Toni Morrison called "the fluidity of female intelligence." The author concentrates largely upon "moments of being," since life consists of "little separate incidents which one lived one by one."
Consider director Robert Altman's fluid camera work in a film like "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" hovering, flitting and alighting upon his ensemble of characters, then consider a disembodied narrator who with subtlety discloses the characters' interior lives, particularly women characters like Mrs. Ramsay and Lily Briscoe, and you have some notion of Woolf's revolutionary technique. In the process, she explores themes of female submission and masculine certitude and misogyny, chaos and art's order, time and memory and mortality, the fragmentation of the unitary consciousness.
Yet in the Ramsays' family journey to the lighthouse, the reader too undergoes a sea-change, an immersion in perception and consciousness, a musical orchestration of voices. In the end, Lily Briscoe thinks, "I have had my vision"; her vision, like Woolf's novel, becomes that vision of wholeness that each character desires. An indispensable reading experience."
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