Monday 29 October 2007

To the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf has been on my tbr mountain for a couple of years now. I decided to read it for the Books to Movies challenge, a challenge which sadly I have a feeling I'm not going to be able to complete. (RL turned busy and difficult just after I signed up for it in August.) But I did, nevertheless, want to read this particular book as I've long wanted to find out whether I'm a fan of Woolf's writing - or not.

So, am I a fan? To tell the truth - decisive as always - I'm not sure. I started this book and got to about page 70. I struggled all the way with her rambling style, her going off at a tangent about this, that and the other. I don't know why it irritated me, I usually have a lot of patience with that style of writing, maybe I wasn't concentrating hard enough, I don't know. Sometimes she just totally lost me! So, I gave it a rest for about a fortnight. Read a couple of other things and then went back to it. The story, btw, is about the Ramsay family who own a holiday home on Skye. Really it's about the family and their hangers-on, the dynamics of the relationships between them and especially what kind of marriage Mr and Mrs Ramsay have. So, anyway, after a fortnight or so I went back to the book. And somehow it didn't seem as bad. Suddenly I didn't feel like flinging it across the room but was reading it quite happily. Did she stop rambling after seventy pages? Was I in a different mood? I haven't a clue. Nor can I decide whether I actually liked it or not. I couldn't help comparing it to a wonderful Persephone book I read in the summer called Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton. That too was a book about families set around about the same time, if memory serves me correctly. I'm very much afraid the Woolf book came up wanting. Family Roundabout was so much more involving, crisply written, amusing - I was desperate to know what happened to all the members of the family. Sadly, in To the Lighthouse I wasn't really all that bothered. Does this make me a Philistine? The fact that I prefer Richmal Crompton's writing to that of the genius that is Virginia Woolf? I'll have to think on that one. Maybe try one or two more of Woolf's books or essays before I cast judgement on my own judgement (so to speak). The thing is, I really want to like her writing. I feel as though I should like it for some bizarre reason. After all, I saw and enjoyed the movie of Mrs Dalloway and yes, I know a film is a very different kettle of fish to a book, but nevertheless I found the story interesting and liked what it had to say. I honestly don't know what to think (no change there then) and clearly will have to try another of her books in order to form some kind of definite opinion.

Currently reading: Abarat by Clive Barker.


Tara said...

I've never read Woolf...and find her quite intimidating. I do, however, have Family Roundabout on the shelf and am really looking forward to it =)

Anonymous said...

I have not read Virginia Woolf either and I'm not sure I will. I kind of have an attitude about the "classics" that I "should" read. Hmmm...anyway, I'm just happier reading what seems interesting to me at the time. And that changes from day to day. Are you liking the Clive Barker book?

Cath said...

Tara: I think you'll really enjoy Family Roundabout, such wonderful humour and interesting characters. My Persephone biannual magazine came the other day so am looking forward to sitting down with that and choosing a book for Christmas.

Kay: Yes, I do understand your attitude to the classics completely. I have that too to a certain extent but just occasionally I decide to find out what the fuss is about. Sadly there are times when I don't understand the fuss at all! Yes, I am enjoying Abarat very much indeed... truly an original, imo.

StuckInABook said...

Two of my favourite books!

Family Roundabout - and all Richmal Crompton's many novels - are brilliant, love them. I also love To The Lighthouse, but in a very different way. I just immerse myself in the writing and enjoy it for it's own sake - the characters come second. Which sounds pretentious, I imagine, but isn't supposed to be! I don't think I read any author in quite the same way as I read Woolf, so I always understand when other people don't get on with her, but do share most of my reading taste!

Now can I recommend Frost at Morning by Richmal Crompton! Not in print, but easily avaiable secondhand. And then Matty and the Dearingroydes... then Westover... then all of 'em!

Cath said...

Hi Simon. I definitely intend to try more of Woolf's work. Someone recommended The Voyage Out and our library has some of her essays, so I'm not giving up yet. It's a good hint to possibly read her in a different way to other authors, thanks.

Yes, I have Frost at Morning on my tbr pile and am looking forward to reading it as several people have recommended it. I might reread some of the William books next year too.

StuckInABook said...

Of course you've got Frost at Morning, I'd forgotten for a moment. I eagerly await your response to it!