To the Lighthouse

by Virginia Woolf · read June 29, 2023


What I respected the most about this novel was the wholeheartedness of Woolf's vision. Some of her choices were polarizing — for example, the prose can be difficult to read — but I really enjoyed seeing how everything fit together, and I was especially impressed with the beautiful execution of the "Time Passes" interlude. There were sections of the novel that dragged a bit for me, but I absolutely loved the dinner party scene — Lily's voice was by far my favourite.

(I also had the delightful experience of reading almost the entirety of To the Lighthouse, part one of which revolves around whether or not the weather will permit the Ramsays to go out for a day trip, while sitting on a runway at JFK for 7 hours wondering whether or not the weather would permit my plane to leave for Toronto. Like the Ramsays, my trip was delayed… though thankfully not quite as long.)

"Will you take me, Mr. Tansley?" said Lily, quickly, kindly, for, of course, if Mrs. Ramsay said to her, as in effect she did, "I am drowning, my dear, in seas of fire. Unless you apply some balm to the anguish of this hour and say something nice to that young man there, life will run upon the rocks—indeed I hear the grating and the growling at this minute. My nerves are taut as fiddle strings. Another touch and they will snap"—when Mrs. Ramsay said all this, as the glance in her eyes said it, of course for the hundred and fiftieth time Lily Briscoe had to renounce the experiment—what happens if one is not nice to that young man there—and be nice.

Julia Rodenburg © 2024